My TranTien Foundation Trip in March 2016

I feel so proud for being a member of TranTien family since my trip to Vietnam in March 2016. It is not that I had been unaware of the TranTien Foundation’s (TTF) work. My late brother TranTien Hien joined the 2010 team and spoke about it with admiration and pride. My sister Tran Thi Nhu Hao has been involved with TTF as an administrator, since its inception. But for that feeling of pride to sink in, I have to be part of the team, to experience the work myself and to see everything with my own eyes. I think “Seeing is believing.”


Medical Team’s Services

We came from many corners of the United States; volunteer doctors, nurses and I (The Team) at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat airport on March 5 to fly to Hue. Despite our long international flights and evening arrival in Hue, the work began early next day. At the hospitals, anxious patients and family members already formed long lines in the hallway awaiting for us. In the examination rooms, I saw, for the first time and close-up, many patients with deformed faces and bodies, severe burns, and wounds that go deep into the flesh.

During the seven-day mission diagnosis, surgeries, and training sessions filled the doctors’ day. The various symposiums introduced latest trends in surgeries, medical technologies and practices. Among the diverse topics presented were autism and hyperactivity syndrome, and impacts of climate change on public health. New this year are presentations on Minimizing Risks in the Operating Rooms and Protocols and Treatments for Wounds. These symposiums were very well attended by physicians, medical students, and health care professionals from
Hue and other towns in Central Vietnam.

Each year, The Team brings medical supplies and equipments as donations to the university and hospitals. Some members also bring their own cash to assist poor patients, with donation given directly as we visited them at their hospital beds.

The Team's expertise is highly respected; local medical professionals and administrative staff repeatedly expressed their appreciation for TTF, in public announcements and in personal interactions. Local TV channels covered The Team’s activities throughout the week.

Other TTF’s Services

We also visited the Tran Tien’s ancestor home in Bao Vinh, a village about eight kilometers north-east of Hue City, where the Foundation operates a walk-in primary care clinic and a preschool. Both services (primary care and early childhood education) target the poor families in
the area and are free of charge.

The primary care clinic facility is very simple compared to Western standards, but seemed adequate to help the poor patients in the area. About twenty patients come per day for health examinations, diagnosis, acupuncture, and medications. Acupuncture is provided in the morning while examination in the afternoon. We enjoyed the time at the pre-school, where about fifty joyful children, age 4-5, welcomed us with songs and plays. The classroom is clean and equipped with toys, and arts and craft supplies. Teaching focuses on proper manners, appropriate language when communicating with elders and friends, and good hygiene habits. The school also provides healthy lunch and snack. These efforts are to set a good foundation for the children to start off their life, rather than being left unsupervised and unprepared for primary schooling while their parents are working.


What I like most about TTF is it stays true to its “Care - Compassion - Education” mission set forth when it began operation in 2005. First, the patients and the poor benefit directly from the work of TTF. Secondly, its services are provided in an efficient manner. As an economist, I look at organizations under the lens of efficiency, i.e., benefits, time, and cost. During this trip, I saw that activities were carried out like a well-oiled machine, where no time was wasted and schedules and assignments were clear. The collaboration of the local hospitals and physicians added to efficiency. Over the years The Team has built a strong trust from the local professionals not mentioning the deep appreciation of patients and families. Thirdly, TTF’s total cost is low because the volunteers (doctors, nurses and assistants as myself) not only contribute expertise and time but also incur their own travel expenses. In addition, Dr. Doan van Quynh and his wife, Tran thi Nhu Mai, a TranTien family member in Hue, manage the preschool and walk-in clinic with no salary. They also provide the facility for TTF at no charge. Thus, TTF funds are used to support the local staff (doctor, acupuncturist, nurses, teachers) school lunches and snacks, and other incidentals only. This low cost feature of our TTF is very different from some non-profit organizations, whose administration costs are quite high.

I came home with a great sense of accomplishments and pride but also with hope for the future. I hope we could do more to help the poor patients; their sufferings are too great. When illness strikes, some family members have to give up what they are doing for a living to care for the
patient. In addition to hospital and medication cost, transportation and lodging add to the financial burden. With poverty, the risk of complications/infections from insufficient postsurgeries care is very high.

Among Dr Sum’s vision for the future are:

  • more symposiums to expand local doctors’ knowledge
  • appropriate care for post-surgeries
  • establish a wound care program modeled after Henry Mayo’s program to Hue hospital

His vision can only be implemented if there is participation from the younger generation of the TranTien family, i.e., generation 2.0 (children of the current generation) and their friends. There is so much to do and they can contribute in many ways. Helping others in needs can bring rewards beyond one’s expectations.

As results of this trip I had re-established connections with Hue and my root, and got a better  under-standing of the medical field. I want to express my deep appreciation for Dr. Huyen, Sum, Quynh, Nhu Mai, Khanh, and Ngac who spearheaded this very meaningful effort and provide
opportunity for others to help.

Tran thi Nhu Mai-Trang
Nov 20, 2016