Saving lives through the treatment of tropical disease

Dr Lam Minh Yen (MSc (HS)(Res) ’02) is one of the top tropical disease specialists in the world and a member of Australia’s Global Alumni Community. She has been named an Australian Alumni Ambassador, one of only 12 selected by the Australian Government from across the global network of more than 2.5 million alumni.

In 2006, Dr Yen was promoted to Vice Director at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, a position she held until 2016 when she retired. She is currently a full-time doctor at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, one of the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programs, based within the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Through her pioneering work Dr Yen has saved lives, trained a new generation of doctors and led the prevention of dangerous epidemics such as Ebola, MERS-CoV and Zika at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Dr Yen pioneered new approaches that led to a reduction in the mortality rate for tetanus at the hospital from 20-30% in 1998 to 2% in 2012. It is currently 0.83%.

Dr Yen achieved this extraordinary result by various means: organising training courses in basic and advanced intensive care techniques for doctors and nurses; ensuring the Intensive Care Department had the appropriate equipment; and organising and participating in scientific research activities to find new approaches for treatment. She also invited Oxford University’s doctors to participate in research at her department.

Hundreds of Vietnamese and overseas medical students benefited from the expertise and mentorship of Dr Yen until she retired. She organised English language courses to improve the English level of doctors and nurses so that they could take part in training abroad and access international medical documents. Dr Yen introduced international scholarships to young doctors and was also instrumental in establishing a club of young doctors to help them improve their professional qualifications.

Dr Yen also co­-wrote the ‘Tetanus’ chapter in classical medical textbooks such as Manson’s Tropical DiseasesTextbook for Critical Care, and Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. At her hospital, she trains Intensive Care doctors in treating serious cases of tetanus, dengue shock syndrome, severe sepsis, hand, foot, and mouth disease, infection of central nervous systems and HIV AIDS. The mortality rate for these diseases at her hospital is considered the lowest in Vietnam.

Dr Yen has researched Hepatitis C and hospital-acquired infection with the results published in respected international journals such as the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and PsychiatryTropical Medicine and International HealthIntensive Care Medicine and The Lancet.

In 2012, Dr Yen was awarded the title Eminent Doctor by Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang. The Hospital for Tropical Diseases at which she works is considered one of Vietnam’s leading hospitals in dealing with contagious diseases due to the work of Dr Yen and her team.

Dr Lam Minh Yen was awarded a prestigious Flinders University Convocation Medal in 2017 for her considerable contribution, leadership and advancement of professional practice in the research and treatment of tropical diseases.

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