American doctors help less fortunate in Vietnam
  • | WGRZ | June 07, 2010 04:56 PM

A group of American doctors recently returned from a trip to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City where they donated a number of surgeries to the country's less fortunate.

Dr. Meilman and his patient

The trip was through the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, and the doctors worked out of a military hospital in Ho Chi Minh City that was built around the time of the Vietnam War. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Hiratch Karamanoukin was one of the doctors on the trip, and said the hospital still had "1950s style amenities."

When it came to selecting patients, Karamanoukin said it was a year-long process that started with exchanging case files and pictures over e-mail. The final group was chosen once the doctors got to Vietnam. Doctors were also careful to make sure that the patients had proper access to follow up care.

Karamanoukin, a Lebanese immigrant himself, has seen civil war first hand and said that he grew up with the desire to help people. He went to Guatemala twice early in his career and has been going on outreach trips like this one ever since.

"There are a lot of people around the world who need help," Karamanoukin said. "I was glad to be a part of it."

Another doctor of the trip was Jeffrey Meilman. The trip was somewhat bittersweet for him, as he worked at a doctor in Southeast Asia during the war.

One of the children Meilman treated while in Vietnam was a 3 year-old girl with hairy nevus, which left a large black mark on her face. An operation was attempted in Vietnam but failed, and the girl will be making the journey to Buffalo to have the nevus removed.

Meilman says the process of getting her to the States is not easy and there's lots of paperwork involved, but the feeling of giving back is what's most important.

"I'd be better at golf if I wasn't doing this," Meilman joked. "But in the end, I just want to see kids be able to live normal lives."

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