Members of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) recently returned from Vietnam after providing corrective surgery on 75 Vietnamese children and adults with lower extremity deformities and disabilities. This was the 10th Annual Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam for the group.

Since the first trip in 2002, more than 700 Vietnamese patients have benefited from their services, which are performed without charge. Due to the cost, many of these patients would likely never receive the care or surgery provided by the AOFAS members. Two teams of visiting AOFAS members volunteer over a four-week period traveling to villages and towns in northern and central Vietnam and work side by side in clinics and operating rooms with Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons. In Hanoi, the AOFAS surgeons see patients in the clinic at Viet Duc Hospital, the large teaching hospital, and perform surgery with the orthopaedic residents as part of an educational exchange.

The AOFAS members volunteer their time, pay their own travel expenses, and in the end their own lives are changed by the experience. Naomi Shields, M.D.of Wichita, Kansas is a veteran on these trips, having participated annually since the program's inception ten years ago. "What we do is a small drop in the bucket of need but for the hundreds of patients AOFAS surgeons have operated on, that drop has been life changing. I hope we can continue with this project and expand to other countries." said Dr. Shields.

The AOFAS Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam, supported by the Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Outreach & Education Fund (OEF), is a partnership initiative with the Seattle-based Prosthetics Outreach Foundation (POF), which has been providing prosthetic limbs to Vietnamese children and adults without charge since the 1990s but until ten years ago lacked an advanced medical services component for patients in need.

As a complement to the mission of the POF, the AOFAS project offers corrective surgery to patients with lower limb deformities and disabilities caused by polio, cerebral palsy, clubfoot, trauma or amputation. Many patients are from impoverished areas often without access to care and/or are unable to afford advanced medical services. Over the ten years of the project, AOFAS surgeons have seen more than 2,000 patients in clinics and operated on more than 700 patients.

The AOFAS members share new technologies with Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons and in return are exposed to foot and ankle conditions that many have only read about as classic textbook cases, such as severe untreated clubfoot. In addition to the surgical component, the AOFAS co-sponsored an educational conference on Surgery of the Lower Extremity in Hanoi. The visiting surgeons participated in the educational exchange which was attended by more than 150 Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons. This cultural and professional exchange further enhances the experience for both AOFAS members and Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons, while the service and educational components of the mission create opportunities for local surgeons to learn directly about new surgical advancements in the treatment of foot and ankle disease and deformities.

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society is a professional society of more than 1,800 orthopaedic surgeons specializing in diagnosis, care and treatment of patients with disorders of the musculoskeletal system of the foot and ankle.