Member Making a Difference: Thanh-Nga Trinh Tran, MD, PhD

Member Making a Difference

Dermatologist Thanh-Nga Trinh Tran, MD, PhD, brings modern treatments to Vietnam.

Attendees at the 2009 Up-To-Date Conference of Dermatology and opening ceremony for the Vascular Anomalies Unit.

Dr. Tranh and colleagues at the 2009 conference.

R. Rox Anderson, MD, outside a temple in Vietnam.

Boats float along the Halong River in Vietnam.

Dr. Tranh and Dr. Anderson at the one year anniversary celebration for the Vascular Anomalies Unit.

A traditional boat on the Halong river.

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For Vietnam-born Massachusetts General Hospital dermatologist Thanh-Nga Trinh Tran, MD, PhD, bringing modern methods for treating vascular anomalies to her native country is a deep, driving motivation. Since beginning work to modernize the treatment of hemangiomas and port wine stains in children, Dr. Tran has helped improve both education and patient outcomes for many of the country’s poorest residents.

"To be able to start something and impact so many children is something we had no idea we'd be able to accomplish. They'll have a chance at normal life."

  • Though she left Vietnam as a teenager, Dr. Tran has always maintained interest in the health care system there. When she returned as a resident, she discovered that the main cancer hospital in Saigon was still treating patients with vascular birthmarks using radioactive phosphorus.
  • “Because of their isolation and medical system, they were using these techniques left over from French doctors in the 1930s. We were just shocked,” she said. “When I came back, I spoke with Martin Mihm about setting up a vascoanomalies clinic in Vietnam.”
  • Dr. Tran and Dr. Mihm, along with colleagues in dermatology and dermatopathology, were able to start the clinic with a donated laser in 2009, with the goal of training Vietnamese doctors in modern treatments and use of lasers. They put out a small newspaper ad detailing their services, and were inundated with over 500 patients on the first day.
  • “We realized that a vascular laser wasn’t going to be enough to deal with all the demand, so we were able to secure donation of two more lasers and colleagues to join our organization and help train the Vietnamese doctors.” Dr. Tran said.
  • After five years in operation, the clinic has become part of Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University, and now boasts a donated CO2 laser to deal with the scarring left behind by phosphorus treatments. “We’ve had a tremendous team of people in Vietnam who believe in the same thing we do,” she said. “Learning from each other brings us closer in understanding, and it’s very rewarding.”
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