WHA Featured in the Asian Fortune
WHA Featured in the Asian Fortune
Dr. Thien Do Urges Support for WHA Fundraiser
By: Jennie L. Ilustre
September 4, 2009
Dr. Thien Do, founder and director of the non-profit organization World Health Ambassadors (WHA), graciously handed his business card at the end of the interview. At the back of the card, one noted his life's philosophy. "Suffering is less when we are there to help," it said. Dr. Do's family came to this country as Vietnamese refugees. Indeed, he knows people triumph over life's adversities when others lend a hand.
Dr. Do is the director of a multi-specialty medical facility in Annandale. He's the lead staff cardiologist. The medical group consists of cardiology, pulmonology, radiology, urgent care, and family medicine services. Dr. Do has practiced medicine for over 13 years. He's a graduate of George Washington University's School of Medicine.
WHA is based in Annandale, Virginia. Its reach, however, extends far and wide. Since 2004, its team of volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and support members–from across the US and other countries–go on medical missions in developing nations. WHA offers medical and dental care to underserved communities overseas, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Here in the US, it assists in medical relief efforts for natural disasters.
In November, WHA itself needs help to be able to continue helping others. "We're appealing to individuals, corporations and organizations to support our 3rd Annual Fundraising Gala on November 8," Dr. Do said during the interview at his Annandale office. A medical missions costs $50,000 on average. Volunteer experts pay for their plane fares. But onsite costs and other expenses are shouldered by the organization. WHA (www.whausa.org) is a 501c3 organization, and all donations to it are tax-deductible.
Billed as the Blue Lantern Benefit, the fundraising gala for the next mission (Nepal) takes place at the Westwood Country Club on 800 Maple Avenue, East in Vienna, Virginia. For tickets, individuals and groups are urged to call (703) 658-7060, or email email@example.com
Working with embassies, local officials and healthcare practitioners, WHA has undertaken medical and dental missions to Cambodia (2005), Vietnam (2007) and Laos (2008) under challenging conditions. The team worked in the hospitals, sometimes in schools under extreme temperatures. Laos was WHA's biggest undertaking, with a 33-member team treating about 1,500 patients over a two-week period. WHA brought 1,300 lbs. of medical equipment, some of which WHA left as donations.
The mission works two ways. Dr. Ashok Chauhan, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Alexandria Hospital, said in an email: "When I was in Laos, it was one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had in my life. It was going somewhere with no intention of any gain. The calmness I felt inside was indescribable."
The mission to Vietnam was notable on many levels, including the number of patients treated (nearly 2,000). WHA also started a teaching program, where its physicians worked with the local medical teaching staff. The mission also resulted in the formation of the WHA Medical Assistance Program.
When it started, many of the volunteers were members of the Vietnamese American Medical Association. Currently, WHA volunteer experts come from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, California, Washington State and Georgia. International volunteers are from Vietnam, Philippines, China, Egypt, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden and Netherlands. WHA now has some 250 doctors. "We welcome volunteers from all fields, aside from the medical profession." Dr. Do said, adding they need engineers.
The WHA Program is composed of four teams. WHA is unique in that before it undertakes a mission, its Health Advisory Team analyzes the destination's medical needs and formulates healthcare plans. The International Medical Relief Group performs overseas medical and dental missions. The Emergency Relief Team assists with natural disaster relief efforts and other medical needs within the U.S. The Medical Support Team provides the logistics to the various operations.
Two major influences shaped Dr. Do's outlook in life. He recalled: "Our family was relatively well-to-do. Both of my parents were lawyers back in our own country. But after the fall of Vietnam, my parents had to start a new life in the US while caring for their five young children. This was a challenge. The fact that they worked very hard for their children infused this work ethic and caring attitude into me."
Thien's family first arrived at Camp Pendleton in California, and stayed there for three days for processing. They then moved to a refugee center in Mt. Angel, Oregon. They were there for half a year. They traveled to Ohio to meet their sponsorship family, living there for two years before moving back to California.
Theirs is a success story. Three sons became physicians. The daughters became a dentist and a lawyer. Dr. Do said his parents also actively engaged in civic and community work, something that did not come as a surprise to him.
"Being in the US Army medical corps later on was one of the high points of my life," Dr. Do said. "The Army taught me leadership skills, decision-making, and taking responsibilities for my own actions."
He served in the U.S. Army with the rank of major. He assumed multiple leadership roles at the Malcolm Grow Medical Center, including Director of Coronary Care Unit, Intermediate Care Unit and Pacemaker Implantation Services and Director of the Non-invasive Labs.
Dr. Do earned his degree in Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated from George Washington University's School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center and his cardiology fellowship at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
He served as assistant clinical professor at the Georgetown School of Medicine and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Dr. Do has also served as vice president of the Northern Virginia Vietnamese Medical Society and vice president of the National Vietnamese American Medical Association.
Dr. Do is married to Dr. Van-Anh Nguyen, a family practice physician in Vienna whom he met at a WHA event, where she came as a supporter. They got married last August 15. "My wife is familiar with the program and very supportive of my involvement," he said, smiling. Family and giving back to society–these are the lessons he learned from his parents and his own experience.
Maureen Walsh, a lawyer turned full-time mom who wanted to continue advocacy work on a part-time basis, joined WHA last March as secretary and de facto consultant. She said she was impressed with the dedication of Dr. Do and others in the organization.
Dr. Do himself knows the value of team effort, and acknowledges the role of the other WHA officers: Dr. Doanh Lu (Massachusetts), vice director; Hien Vo, JD, Chief Operating Officer; Hung Nguyen, MBA (MD), Chief Financial Officer; Baochau Bui (VA), treasurer; Dr. Jonathan Hoang Lam (TX), Fundraising Manager; Liza Hoang (VA), general secretary; Helen Nguyen, RPH (VA), Marketing Director; Caroline Ngo, JD (VA), Legal Counseling; Mina T. Nguyen, MBA (MA), Foreign Affairs; Tomoko Kurokawa, MD (CA), Field Medical Director; Thang Ba Pham, DDS (VA), Dental Team Coordinator; Phuong Vo, RN (TX), Nursing Team Coordinator; John Luong (VA), Mission Materials Coordinator; Thao Phan (VA), IT Advisor; Vinnie Ngo (DC), Audio-Visual Coordinator; Tuan Nguyen (MD), Documentary Director, and Dr. Quan Dong Nguyen, (MD) Advisory Board.