NEEDS ASSESSMENT FOR BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING IN VIETNAM

 

 

Goals

 

Thanks to the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF), from January 3rd to 15th, 2004, a U.S. delegation will visit three universities in Vietnam: the Hanoi University of Technology, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Can Tho University. All three universities currently have a strong interest in Biomedical Engineering and are very motivated to collaborate with U.S. counterparts to focus and enhance their activities. The U.S. delegation will consist of eight university professors, scientists and experts in Biomedical Engineering from six American universities and the National Institutes of Health. Independent observers will also accompany the delegation during the visit. The goal of the delegation is to assess the general and specific needs in the field of Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam by meeting with Vietnamese faculty and government officials, and conducting site visits to key departments, laboratories and local industries. Participants will also look into specific possibilities for the establishment of future collaborative efforts between researchers and educators from the two countries. The information gathered by the delegation will provide knowledge of the state of development of Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam. The delegation will then report to NSF regarding priority steps leading to the development of appropriate Biomedical Engineering research in Vietnam and cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnamese scientific communities.

 

 

Biomedical Engineering

 

Biomedical Engineering is a multidisciplinary domain, which links life sciences to disciplines such as engineering, physics and mathematics. It involves the application of state-of-the-art technology in the creation of methodologies and devices for human welfare and for a better understanding of human biological processes. It includes the study of medical instrumentation, biosensors, medical informatics, biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering, medical optics, clinical engineering and biotechnology, and requires expertise in different areas of applied and basic sciences.

 

Interest in Biomedical Engineering activities has grown considerably in Vietnam in recent years. Although at the present time Vietnam does not have advanced technology and extensive know-how, its researchers are of high quality and possess a firm willingness to refocus on emerging technologies that provide appropriate programmatic structure and opportunities. The traditions, environment and conditions within the country after a prolonged war offer various unique research opportunities. The Vietnamese government and policymakers at universities are aware of the importance of the Biomedical Engineering field. They are putting great effort toward developing this field and actively looking for international support and collaborations, particularly from the U.S.

 

It is well established that Biomedical Engineering has experienced the most rapid growth in the U.S. in recent years, and that further expansion is expected. An international collaboration in research and education with Vietnam would be mutually beneficial for researchers and educators in both countries. Vietnam is a dynamic country ready to integrate diverse technologies in the health sciences and to adopt international research and educational systems. Due to the prolonged war, Vietnam offers unexplored and unique research topics, which may offer an unrivaled experience to U.S. researchers and educators. On the other hand, expert help from the U.S. can make a critical difference for the development of Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam, the identification of areas that are of the highest interest and recruiting young scientists that have the highest potential to work in the field.

 

Current status in Vietnam

 

        After a long and devastating war, Vietnam is left with countless numbers of people with disabilities. The war continues to increase its toll not only on children and adults (for example, due to landmines), but also extends to future generations (for example, due to chemical warfare residuals causing birth defects or genetic diseases). In general, it has been suggested that the education system in Vietnam is deficient in many areas, particularly in the applied sciences. However the system still produces high caliber physicists and high quality students in mathematics and sciences; Vietnamese students consistently win first prizes at the Annual International Math and Sciences Olympiad (1).

 

        Until recently Hanoi University of Technology was the only institution in Vietnam with a formal undergraduate biomedical curriculum. With a faculty of five they enroll approximately 50 students annually selected from the brightest candidates. The Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology is in the process of establishing a Biomedical Engineering Department. In all three cities Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho, there are well established schools of medicine. Development of new public and private educational establishments has been planned (2).

 

        In research, some Vietnamese scientists are on the cutting edge in their specialized fields. Within the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, a small group of researchers in the Physics Department has been active in developing applications of the Laser in medical therapy. Another group in the Electrical Engineering Department is investigating objective and science-based ways to assess the results obtained from traditional Vietnamese medicine. At Hanoi University of Technology, the Department of Applied Quantum Electronics and Biomedical Electronics is active in the research of molecular electronic dynamics of materials and biomedical systems. The National Center for Natural Science and Technology (NCST) in Hanoi houses the Institute of Biotechnology where investigators concentrate on research in the development and utilization of tropical genetic resources including microorganisms, plants and animals. The Can Tho University is well known for its research in rice genetics. The tissue culture laboratories of Dalat University supply strains to flower, fruit tree, and vegetable growers nationwide (3).

 

        In industry, the Vietnamese people are ingenious and resourceful: characteristics that have allowed them to reach their current level in spite of poor working conditions. Regional industry varies from isolated inventors or handicraft artists (who develop innovative pieces of equipment to satisfy local demands), secluded machine shops in the hospital or university (which replicate missing parts that are either too costly or not readily available), to more organized industries that represent foreign medical companies (4).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanoi University of Technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Plan

 

The visits are planned for two days at each location and will consist of three parts: presentations, a visit to the site to assess the current activities, and a round table discussion. In the presentations, local authorities will present their current research and educational situation at their institutions. The U.S delegation will then visit local academic laboratories to gain a first-hand understanding of the working conditions, and the potential and needs in Vietnam. Round-table discussions will focus on a needs assessment for Vietnam and the effectiveness of U.S. research and education models as they fit with the conditions and environment in Vietnam. Participants will strive to converge their assessments, prioritize the work to be done, recommend the approaches to be taken for short, mid and long-term objectives and identify the most useful methods of implementation. Discussions will eventually narrow to pilot models suitable for Vietnam now and in the foreseeable future and extend to groundwork for further collaborations. The local Vietnamese-English interpreters will be assigned to assist the delegation during the visits and discussions.

 

There are multiple reasons for organizing the visit at different places. The research and education programs and working conditions in Vietnam are very different from one place to the others. Following the visits, a final report will be prepared for the National Science Foundation and papers will be submitted for publication in a professional journal such as the IEEE EMBS, and other Vietnamese journals and newspapers. We will also elaborate a distilled expert report, one version for Vietnamese policy makers and the other version for potential American support foundations. These documents will also be made available through this web site.

 

 

 

Tentative Itinerary

 

Day 1: Saturday Jan 3, 2004: Arrive to Hanoi

 

Day 2: Sunday January 4, 2004: Free day

 

Day 3: Monday January 5, 2004: Meeting at US Embassy in Hanoi

 

Day 4: Tuesday January 6, 2004: Hanoi University of Technology: Joint meetings with Biomedical Engineering groups of Hanoi University of Technology, and of National Centre for Natural Sciences and Technology. Visit their laboratories, and possible local industries.

 

Day 5: Wednesday January 7, 2004: Hanoi University of Technology: Joint meetings with Biomedical Engineering groups of Hanoi University of Technology, and of National Centre for Natural Sciences and Technology. Visit their laboratories, and possible local industries.

Day 6: Thursday January 8, 2004: Fly to Ho-Chi-Minh City

 

Day 7: Friday January 9, 2004: Ho-Chi-Minh City of Technology: Meetings and visit its Biomedical laboratories, and possible other institutions and local industries.

 

Day 8: Saturday January 10, 2004: Ho-Chi-Minh City of Technology: Meetings and visit its Biomedical laboratories, and possible other institutions and local industries.

 

Day 9: Sunday January 11, 2004: Trip to Can Tho

Day 10: Monday January 12, 2004: Can Tho University: Meetings and visit its Biomedical laboratories, and possible other institutions and local industries.

 

Day 11: Tuesday January 13, 2004: Can Tho University: Meetings and visit its Biomedical laboratories, and possible other institutions and local industries.

 

Day 12: Wednesday January 14, 2004: Trip to Ho-Chi-Minh City. Debriefing at the U.S. consulate general at Ho-Chi-Minh City.

 

Day 13: Thursday January 15, 2004: Depart from Ho-Chi-Minh City

 

 

US Delegation

 

The U.S. delegation consists of eight members, an Assistant and three independent observers. Professor Van Toi Vo of Tufts University leads the delegation. The members are:

 

1.     Dudley Childress, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Currently, Professor Childress is the Director of several programs including Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory (NUPRL), Northwestern University Rehabilitation Engineering Program (NUREP), Prosthetics and Orthotics Education Program. His research and development activities are concentrated in the areas of biomechanics, human walking, artificial limbs, ambulation aids, and rehabilitation engineering. This involves the design and development of modern technological systems for amputees and other disabled people and a scientific approach to analysis and description of human movement and physical disability.

 

2.     Robert Jaeger, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Research Engineer, Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering Section at the Physical Disabilities Branch, Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland. His research interests at NIH include rehabilitation engineering, assistive technology, optoelectronic plethysmography, and gait analysis. He is co-editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. Dr. Jaeger is also responsible for Interagency and International Affairs at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), US Department of Education. He is the Executive Secretary of the Interagency Committee on Disability Research. He serves as project officer on several NIDRR extramural grants, including the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Improved Technology Access for Landmine Survivors. Prior to joining NIDRR in 1997, Dr. Jaeger served as a professor of medical engineering at the Pritzker Institute of Medical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology since 1981. He also has an adjunct appointment in the Research Service at the Hines VA Hospital, and serves as co-investigator on a VA Merit Review Research Project studying cough in spinal cord injury.

 

3.     David Kaplan, Ph.D., Tufts University, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Medford, MA. Currently Professor Kaplan is Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Tufts University Bioengineering Center. He has published over 250 papers and edited six books in areas of biopolymer engineering, biomaterials and tissue engineering. He serves on the editorial boards of three journals, is an Associate Editor for Biomacromolecules, and has served on numerous government and university advisory panels and committees. His research program is currently supported by the NSF, NIH, USDA, NASA, DoD and industry.

 

4.     Murray H. Loew, Ph.D., George Washington University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Washington, DC. Professor Loew is currently Co-Director of the Institute for Medical Imaging and Image Analysis. He was a Program Director of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at the National Science Foundation, Washington, D. C., Division of Information, Robotics, and Intelligent Systems. He was organizer of the U.S.-China Joint Workshop on Multimodality Medical Image Registration at IEEE EMBS 20th Ann. Intl. Conf. 1998 in Hong Kong. He has been involved in many other biomedical engineering conferences as an organizer or chair. They included the Image Processing conference at SPIE Medical Imaging, IEEE Symposiums on Computer-Based Medical Systems, and BioMedical Visualization. His research interest includes Medical imaging and Computer-Aided Diagnosis.

 

5.     Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Ph.D., Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic is currently a Principal Research Scientist at Harvard - MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts and a Professor at Belgrade University (Yugoslavia). She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the lead of research teams working on tissue engineering and biological research in space, and a science lead of the design and testing of cell culture system for the International Space Station. She is the author or co-author of over 150 publications. She served as a convener, chairman, discussion leader and invited speaker of numerous conferences, review panels and advisory committees and scientific advisory boards for the Biomedical Engineering. Her research and teaching at MIT include Tissue Engineering, Biomaterials, Bioreactors, Quantitative Physiology and Transport Phenomena in Living Systems.

 

6.     Van Toi Vo, Ph.D., Tufts University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Medford, Massachusetts. Professor Vo founded the Tufts University Biomedical Engineering Program about ten years ago. He has been instrumental in building the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University and the Eye Research Institute in Switzerland. He co-founded the Vietnamese North American University Professor Network: a mechanism designed to promote interaction among university professors of Vietnamese extraction in the U.S. and Canada. Professor Vo has been involved in several educational activities with Hanoi University of Technology, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Can Tho University. His research areas include design and applications of medical instrumentation, human vision and ophthalmology, and applications of information technology in healthcare.

 

7.     John G. Webster, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Biomedical Engineering Department, Madison, Wisconsin. Professor Webster is a worldwide known educator and researcher in the Biomedical Engineering field. He is a Fellow of several professional societies including the Instrument Society of America, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and Institute of Physics. He has been involved for several years in the NIH Surgery and Bioengineering Study Section and as an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. He is a recipient of several research and education awards. He has spent some time professionally in Asia including China, Indonesia and Singapore to develop medical instrumentation courses and labs. He is the author or co-author of numerous publications including books and textbooks in Biomedical Engineering. His research interests include Medical Instrumentation and Sensors.

 

The Assistant to the U.S. delegation is Ms. Clarissa Ceruti, Ph.D., MBA. Currently Ms. Ceruti is an Associate Director of the Bioengineering Center at Tufts University.

 

The three independent observers are:

 

1.     Mr. Kien Pham, MBA, Executive Director of the Vietnam Education Foundation, Washington DC.

2.     Professor Bruce Ehrenberg, MD, Associate Professor in Neurology, Tufts University, and Chair of the Medical Advisor Board of the Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) Foundation . His areas of research are epilepsy and sleep disorders.

3.     Professor Michele Sammaritano, MD, Biomedical Engineering Department, Tufts University. She is a specialist in epilepsy and sleep disorders. Her research includes electrophysiological relationships between sleep and epilepsy.

 

Contact Address

 

Professor Vo Van Toi

Tufts University

Biomedical Engineering Department

4 Colby Street

Medford, MA 02155

E-mail: van.vo@tufts.edu

Tel: (617) 627 5191

Fax: (617) 627 3231

Website: www.tufts.edu/~vvo

 

Update: 10/9/04