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Somerset radiologists spread MRI knowledge to Vietnam

Somerset radiologists spread MRI knowledge to Vietnam

Two radiologists at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust have played a leading role in spreading the practice of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning to the healthcare system of Vietnam.

It all came about when consultant radiologist, Dr Andy Lowe, was appointed as the Royal College of Radiologists’ travelling professor in 2019 – a new role that involves providing education to healthcare professionals in developing nations.

“I initially applied to visit the country of Myanmar in South East Asia as we had previous made a successful trip there, but unfortunately a military coup in the country meant it sadly wasn’t possible,” said Andy.

“It was also the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel severely restricted, so we put our plans on the back burner for some time.

“Finally, with travel becoming a lot more relaxed over the last year, I was able to work with the Royal College to start planning a new visit – this time to Vietnam.

“The UK has never really had any historic ties with Vietnam, but we contacted the country’s health service and offered to supply a team to run a radiology conference, which was gladly accepted.

“There was a real Somerset feel to our visit, with Dr Joanna Brown, also a radiology consultant at Musgrove Park Hospital, taking part as well. My fellow Royal College travelling professor, Helen O’Brien, has also worked as a trainee at Musgrove in the past.”

The team visited Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, where they had planned to run a three day MRI course for 40 people.

“Word must have quickly spread that we were in town as an incredible 250 people actually turned up to learn all about MRI,” Andy continued. “The Royal College told us that it was in fact the largest overseas course it had run in the last decade.

“Our radiology colleagues in Vietnam welcomed us with open arms and looked after us really well while we were there. English isn’t spoken that much in Vietnam, especially amongst those over 25, so we had to have our course translated, which was a little clunky, but we got through it.

“As MRI was invented in Oxford, we naturally have a lot of expertise in the UK, and we wanted to share our knowledge with our Vietnamese colleagues, so we could help them improve confidence in interpreting and reporting MRI scans – something that can really advance healthcare.

“We really were impressed with the level of knowledge of radiologists in Ho Chi Minh City as some had really advanced skills, such as experience in cardiac MRI. This meant we could run a more advanced course, although there were still a number of ‘beginners’ in the audience so we tailored some of our sessions to help them.

“We covered MRI scans of all areas of the body, from head to toe, including brain imaging, musculoskeletal, paediatrics, chest, abdomen, gynaecology and more.

“The feedback about the course from our Vietnamese was really positive as, along with bringing them up to speed with our techniques in the UK, we were able to reinforce their existing knowledge base.

“And we actually learned quite a bit from the team in Vietnam too, including how they see 4,000 outpatients a day at one hospital, which is incredible. We visited their ultrasound department where they were scanning a patient every three minutes – an incredibly efficient system!

“We are still in talks with the health service in Vietnam and they’ve expressed an interest in us returning to run the course elsewhere in the country, such as the capital city Hanoi, which is located in northern Vietnam.

“We met some incredible people, with who we clearly have a shared passion for radiology. It has been a rewarding and humbling experience that has left us with impressions that will last a lifetime.”

Pictured with the Vietnam team are: (3rd from left) Dr Joanna Brown – consultant radiologist, and (5th from left) Dr Andy Lowe.

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