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‘Blue-beret’ doctors bring Vietnamese spirit to Africa

In was late April. Major Doctor Bui Thi Thu Trang of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology under the Central Military Hospital 108 was busy with her private work before leaving for Africa to perform duties, slated for mid-May 2022.

Major Trang is one of 12 female soldiers in the squad of 2.4 Field Hospital 2.4 preparing to leave for the UN peacekeeping mission.

After a period of rigorous study and training, the doctors have become fully qualified, ready to perform their duties.

Among the doctors at 2.4 Field Hospital are those who are on duty for the second time, but most are on duty for the first time. There are very young, just over 20 years hold, and some middle-aged like Major Trang. But all of them are enthusiastic and full of energy, ready to perform their duty though they know difficulties are ahead.

Growing up in Ninh Binh, Trang dreamed of becoming a doctor, especially in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I love children and I like the feeling of seeing children being born. I also like witnessing the joy of fathers and mothers when they receive new family members. I vowed to become a doctor when I was at high school,” Trang recalled.

Graduating from Luong Van Tuy High School for the Gifted in Ninh Binh, with excellent marks, the chemistry major enrolled in Hanoi Medical University.

In 2006-2007, hearing about the new policy of the Central Military Hospital 108 on attracting non-army talents, Trang applied to become a doctor at the hospital. The impressive learning records, plus the successful interview round persuaded interviewers to accept Trang. The newly graduated girl officially became a doctor. Over the last 15 years, Trang helped bring thousands of angels to the world.

Talking about the task of joining the UN’s peacekeeping force, the 40-year-old mother of three said she is always ready to perform duties assigned to her by the Party, State and the army.

“My husband was a bit shocked when hearing the news that I would join the UN peacekeeping force, but he understands my decision. At first, my children did not want me to accept this duty, but they later agreed. My father understands that serving in the UN peacekeeping force is an honor that not everyone has, so he takes pride in me. My younger brother also supports me, saying that this is the opportunity to challenge myself,” Trang said.

Trang was the last out of 70 army officers who received the decision to work at 2.4 Field Hospital and the first female doctor at the Central Army Hospital to join the UN peacekeeping mission.

Trang understands that big difficulties are ahead, but Vietnamese women are strong.

“I received the decision to join the UN peacekeeping force on July 15, 2021, which means that while my colleagues can attend training courses for 1-1.5 years, I had only several months to study skills and foreign language to satisfy the requirements of the UN,” Trang said.

To be ready to perform their duties in South Sudan, doctors had rigorous training from foreign specialists. Trang and other officers had to study many things, from the United Nations regulations on human rights to first aid for patients in disasters. The training was even more difficult because of Covid-19. 

Preparing to go to a country where there is civil war and severe climate conditions with a temperature of up to 50oC, Trang and other officers received training in survival skills in emergency cases.

Not only having to meet professional requirements, the doctors have to pass tests in English. They must the language fluently to be able to talk to patients and foreign specialists. This was the biggest challenge for Trang. 

In the past, she studied French and now she had to start from the very beginning. However, with great efforts, after four months of study, Trang now can speak with teachers and read foreign documents.

Before departure, they had a chance to follow a training course about traditional folk music of the northern, central and southern regions. They will take along ao dai (traditional long dress) and ao tu than (four-panel traditional dress), dances and cultural performances imbued with Vietnamese culture to introduce to international friends.

"On holidays of the United Nations, friends or Vietnamese traditional days, we will perform music and dance to introduce Vietnamese culture to international friends,” Trang said.

The 2.4 Field Hospital this year had something new in training that that previous hospitals did not have: Trang and other officers  attended a short-term training course on making paper postcards and silk paintings, which will be given to international friends. They will also teach local women these skills. Recipients may eventually forget the faces of the female doctors, but they will know that these are gifts from Vietnam.

Tran Thuong

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