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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 3, 1975)
friday, October 3, 1975-
By Dick Pkrsol
" Thirty Vietnamese refugee physicians
are progressing toward their Nebraska med
ical practice licensing through the Vietnam
ese Physicians' Educational Program at the
University of Nebraska Medical Center
(UNMC), according to Program Director
Dr. Jack Watkins.
Watkins, a professor in the Nebraska
Center for Continuing Medical Education,
said that before the-doctors can practice in
the 27 sponsoring communities, they must
pass two examinations.
He said that the Education Committee
for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)
exam, to be offered Jan. 21, is designed to
test both English language comprehension
and basic medical knowledge and skills.
The doctors also must pass a state licensing
exam administered by the State Board of
Two programs of educational assistance
are used to help prepare the physicians for
the examinations. Watkins said they are
designed to adapt the physicians to Ameri
can language and culture and to supple
ment their Vietnamese medical training.
David Dorpat of the state Department
of Health, said UNMC started the prepara
tion program soon after the refugees
arrived in Nebraska. He said UNMC con
tracted with Creighton University to pro
vide English language and cultural adjust
ment training for the doctors and their
The first phase of instruction began
June 23 and ended Aug. 15 when the
doctors' families moved to their sponsor
ing communities, according to a report re
leased by Lloyd Hubenka, project director
and chairman of the Creighton English and
The report said phase one provided 20
to 25 hours weekly in language instruction
and five to seven hours per week in cultural
The report called the first phase success
ful. It stated testing showed improvements
in the doctors' reading, listening and speak
ing skills. The report also stated that at
least seven of the doctors would pass the
The second, less intensive phase of
language training began Aug. 23. Two
hours of daily instruction focus on medical
histories, technical vocabulary and patient
Hubenka 's report cites problems in the
language and cultural instruction program.
Although the Legislature appropriated
$50,000 for the instruction, the Omaha
Public Schools System also is providing
funds for the second-hase. According to
the report, the student-faculty ratio is too
high, the project lacks a full-time coordina
tor and the. Omaha Public Schools lack
funds to supply materials and instruction
for the increasingly technical project.
Dorpat said Creighton and UNMC have
applied to the Department of Health, Edu
cation and Welfare (HEW) for federal funds
in the resettlement of the Vietnamese refu
gees. The schools have been reasonably
assured the federal money will be available
'for November through June, 1976, he said
said. Some of the money spent by the
Legislature and Omaha Public Schools
probably will be recovered, Dorpat added.
Watkins, UNMC program director, said
the medical retraining program is designed
to acquaint the doctors with family physi
cian practice in their sponsoring commun
ities. He said the family practice common
to Nebraska is much different from the
training they received in Vietnam. .
Watkins said the doctors all have good
backgrounds, but little clinical experience.
Dr. Margaret Faithe, assistant dean for
Continuing Medical Education at UNMC,
said the doctors are becoming familiar
with health care problems they will
She said the Vietnamese are better at
treating infectious diseases than most
American doctors but do not have the ex
perience to treat degenerative health
problems of the elderly.
"In Vietnam, the life span isibout 65
years," she said. "Vietnamese doctors con
sider patients older than that too old to
treat. The surgery they've done is almost'
all war-related trauma surgery. We are
teaching them the kind of reconstructive
.nrmrv common in this country. We have
also taught them about drugs they have
She said the doctors also needed review
in basic sciences and medical information
peculiar to American health care.
"They needed to know about medical
insurance so we visited the Blue Cross-Blue
Shield offices," she said. "We're acquaint
ing them with the duties of nurses, physical
therapists and physician's assistants. We are
planning lectures on malpractice, funerals
and the duties of local coroners. Thanks to
state Sen. John Cavanaugh, the doctors
know a little more about the political
structure of the towns they will five in."
Many of the doctors have had special
ized training, Faithe said. Their specialties
include plastic surgery, ophthalmology,
obstetrics, gynecology, endocrinology and
"They are also interested in things like
the Equal Opportunity Employer signs
written in different languages. We were
discussing hypertension among whites and
non-whites and they wondered where they
fit it. They decided they were non-whites,"
Watkins said most of the 27 communit
ies sponsoring the physicians are outstate
towns desperately needing doctors.
Those communities are Weeping Water,
Clay Center, Humboldt, Albion, Laurel,
Loup City, Ponca, Ravenna, Sutherland,
Wauneta, Mullen, Wood River, Imperial
and Sheldon. Ashland and Norfolk are
sponsoring two families and Beatrice is
sponsoring three. Families in Lincoln and
Omaha are privately sponsoring two
According to John Sahs of the state
Department of Health, the Vietnamese
physicians will reduce the doctor shortage
30 per cent in northern and west-central
Nebraska, where need is most critical.
He said the state needs about 100 doc
tors in those areas, although statewide
shortage is more.
-The sponsoring communities have
formed an association called Medical Edu
cational Development in Communities for
Vietnamese Physicians (MEDIC), according
to Ravenna Mayor Clair Britton.
Britton was elected chairman of that
group at a June meeting in Grand Island.
He said the organization was formed to
smooth the doctors transition from the
refugee huts at Camp Pendleton, Calif,
The reolcation began last spring with
varying degrees of difficulty and coopera
tion, according to state Sen. John DeCamp
DeCamp said he had indirect contact
with some of the doctors at Camp Pendle
ton and had known others when he was at
Can Tho, South Vietnam.
He said he talked with Nebraska Public
Power District (NPPD) representatives
last spring about resettling some of the
doctors in rural Nebraska.
"NPPD checked on the possibilities and
got word that if anything was to be done it
should be done quickly," he said. .
DeCamp proposed that a delegation be
sent by the Legislature to recruit the
doctors. DeCamp, Sen. Tom Kennedy,
chairman of the Legislature's Health and
Welfare Committee, and Sen. Richard
Maresh received initial approval and went
State Department of Health employees
began screening the potential physician re
cruits and assisted community representa
tives who wanted to locate physicians, De
The Department of Immigration and
Naturalization insisted that only individ
uals could sponsor the' physicians, DeCamp
explained, so the communities committed
themselves to providing a home and $500
per month for each doctor and family.
DeCamp said the Legislature then
passed the $50,000 appropriation to start
the UNMC and Creighton programs.
He said the Legislature will probably
need to provide additional funds next year
for living expenses and further education
for the physicians, but Nebraska is well in
tho lead among states that filed for HEW
Refugee problem not new
for Vietnamese physicians
By Dick Piersol
Most of the Vietnamese physicians now
studying at the University of Nebraska
Medical Center (UNMC) were refugees for
the second time when they left South Viet
nam before the fall of Saigon on April
Only three or four of the doctors are
native South Vietnamese, according to Dr.
Nguyen Huu Tien, a spokesman for the
doctors. The other fled Hanoi and other
areas of North Vietnam after the Geneva
Convention of 1954 divided the nation.
Tien, 45, and Dr. Nguyen Van Thieu,
42, another spokesman also share a back
ground in government service. Thieu, not
related to the former South Vietnamese
president worked for the Ministry of
Health in South Vietnam. Tien was a
member of the South Vietnamese Senate.
Tien said there was little organization to
the doctors' escape from South Vietnam
during the fall of that country. He said
most professional people and government
officials left less than a week before Saigon
Tien said several physicians did not
leave Vietnam until after the communist
takeover. Most took refuge in Thailand and
Both doctors said they had visited the
United States before . arriving at Camp
Pendleton, Calif., early in May.
Thieu said he never was in Nebraska,
but had visited Iowa in 1966 on a tour of
Tien said he visited the country three
times as a guest of the State Dept. He
examined health care in America from
what he called sophisticated urban clinic
in San Francisco to an American Indian
tribal medicine in Gallup, N.M.
Both doctors said that although they
were fairly familiar with Americans, the
iannuaza and cultural orientation offered
by Creighton University helped in adjusting
to different surroundings.
Tien said he was worried that his four
children might have a difficult time adjust
ing to America, but found they have made
surprising progress. His children and wife
are now living in Laurel where he will
practice after completing the program.
He said his children are being "Amer
icanized" at a faster rate than he expected.
They like hamburgers, Jello and drink a lot
of milk, and his sons intend to play foot
ball at Laurel High School, he said.
v Tien said his children practice on a
piano provided for them by a' Laurel
Both doctors said the only major adjust
ment was for the weather.
Tien said his family was unhappy with
their stay in Camp Pendleton because of
the cold weather and Army food, so their
first outing was to Disneyland, in Anaheim,
Thieu's family is living in Imperial and
he said his four children are making friends
easily. His children were impressed with
the Nebraska countryside and their first
Both doctors said their training in the
medical school in Saigon basically prepared
them for Vietnamese health problems.
They said they were trained to treat in
fectious, communicable diseases such as
tuberculosis, veneral disease, skin diseases
and gastro-intestinal infections.
They said their retraining for Nebraska's
health problems has concentrated on de
generative health problems of the elderly.
They would like to return to Vietnam,
they said, but not until the country is safe
for them and their families. Both said they
left everything they owned behind, along
with many f.iends and relatives.
The doctors said they were confident
1-' " ' , """"if
Dr. L.E. Dung, Vietnamese immigrant
that the old order would return to power
in Vietnam, but neither could say when
that would happen.
Three younger Vietnamese physicians,
less acquainted with the United States, are
Dr. Le Dung, (pronounced zoong), Dr. Le
Dzieu, and Dr. Tran Chi, one of the five
women in the group.
Le Dung is trained as an ear, nose,
throat and pediatrics specialist. His wife
and three children live in Ashland. He said
he suffered from culture shock the first
week in the state, but that his transition
has been rapid.
Although he and his colleagues still,
speak Vietnamese among themselves, he
said he is learning to wake each morning in'
Ashland thinking in English. '
His three children have adapted, he said
and have no trouble using English with
their friends. The children learned quickly
during the summer vacation through
contact with children at iwimming -pools,
playgrounds and the Henry Doorly Zoo.
He said his adjustment was not easy. He
had to leam to use a gas range and adapt to
He said he is impressed by the size of
the land and most everything in it. He, his
wife and two children have discovered the
American and Nebraskan joy in . team
sports. He said he has heard much and is
apprehensive about Nebraska winters,
Tran Chi has studied obstetrics and
gynecology. She and her husband, also a
physician, were impressed by the friend
liness of their sponsoring community, Clay
Dr. L Dung had reservations about
"I'm not sure I like this football. It
seems an excuse for hitting and hurting
people," he said.
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