JUNE 2009

UCLA PEOPLE
 

UCLA Physician Delivers Medical Care Around the World

For the past 11 years, Thuy Tran, M.D., has used her medical expertise as an internist to diagnose and treat patients at the Manhattan Beach office of UCLA’s Community Physician Network. The medical office is one of the busiest practices in the awardwinning UCLA Medical Group. Dr. Tran’s patient-care focus, however, extends far beyond the South Bay area. In 2005, she founded Global Health Force (GHF), a not-for-profit volunteer organization that collaborates with local organizations in developing nations — including the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Vietnam, Mexico and Jamaica — as well as with organizations in Southern California, to deliver medical care, education and supplies to under-served populations.

“As a refugee from Vietnam, I always wanted to be able to give back, and I had my first opportunity to do so during my training as an internal medicine resident at UCLA,” says Dr. Tran, who traveled to New Mexico to provide medical care on the Zuni Indian Reservation. When UCLA Health System sent volunteers to Albania during the Kosovo War, Dr. Tran contributed her clinical expertise once again. The trip inspired her to launch GHF.

“In Albania, I felt like we accomplished a great deal very quickly, and I believed that GHF could provide the right vehicle for people who wanted to help, but were unable to commit a lot of time,” she says. Most organizations that sponsor humanitarian trips to provide healthcare require volunteers to be away from home and work for months at a time, which is difficult for busy medical practitioners. Each GHF volunteer expedition spans a total of nine days, which includes two weekends and one work week.

“Our goal is to address primary care needs, but we also attempt to evaluate the public health needs of the population and sometimes have funding to provide things such as blankets for winter or a running-water system so people can wash their hands or use toilets,” says Dr. Tran. The experience is extremely rewarding. She says, “I realize it’s challenging to work overseas, but our volunteers get to see the world in a different way. They get to make a difference.”

More information about volunteering is available at www.globalhealthforce.org