By Downing Thomas , Dean of International Programs
Last spring, our College of Pharmacy hosted Prof. Nguyen Van Hung (MD, PhD), Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacy and Family Medicine Unit at Haiphong Medical University in Vietnam. It is not unusual, of course, for us to host visiting faculty from abroad: in fact, we have visitors on campus from abroad on a weekly basis, perhaps even on a daily basis, throughout the academic year. What made Hung’s visit special was that he was in residence for the entire spring semester as a Fulbright scholar, working on long-term goals for pharmacy education and practice in Vietnam. Another thing that made it special is that his visit began discussions toward what promises to be a comprehensive, deep partnership between the University of Iowa and his home institution, Haiphong Medical University.
Hung’s primary goal is to upgrade healthcare practices in Vietnam, where pharmacists are the most frequently used health care provider, accounting for approximately two-thirds of all health service contact. Given the importance of their role, it is crucial for Vietnam to establish an educational collaborative that brings pharmacists and physicians together to provide primary care, particularly given the potential for misuse or overuse of medications.
In addition to his host college, the College of Pharmacy, during his time at the University of Iowa Hung met with colleagues from the each of the other health sciences colleges, the College of Law, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In June, we welcomed a delegation from Haiphong Medical University, including Prof. Pham Van Thuc (President) and Dr. Pham Van Lieu (Vice-President). A reciprocal visit was arranged for me and Dr. Barry Carter, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and in the Department of Family Medicine. During the visit, Dr. Carter participated in a conference where faculty presented the latest on their research topics; and he and I visited Viet Tiep General Hospital where we met with the director, as well as with members of the Faculty of Pharmacy and of the Department of Gerontology.
Dr. Mark Graber from the Carver College of Medicine (Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine) will be the next to build on the Iowa-Haiphong connection when he arrives this spring to lead the International Elective in Emergency Medicine, working with Haiphong Medical University and the hospital Dr. Carter and I visited in December.
In addition to our partnership in the health sciences, several UI faculty members have interacted with colleagues and students in Vietnam, such as Prof. Jim Cremer (Computer Science) who taught at Hanoi University of Science and Technology during a portion of the spring semester, 2011. My focus in this piece on the connection between Haiphong Medical University and the University of Iowa, however, recognizes the strong potential it has to blossom into a relationship with deep and lasting impact on healthcare in Vietnam. It is also a relationship that will provide UI faculty with research opportunities, and offer UI students a chance to understand global health issues through exchanges, study visits, workshops, and conferences.
International Programs was created 15 years ago, built on faculty curricular, research, and outreach efforts largely in the social sciences and humanities. We continue to build strengths in those areas. But as the University of Iowa’s commitment to comprehensive internationalization deepens, I am also increasingly working with the leaders of the professional colleges who are strongly committed to the value of these partnerships.