Needs Assessment for Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam


A report submitted to the NSF by Professor Vo Van Toi, Biomedical Engineering Department, Tufts University, March 4th, 2004





Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, a U.S. delegation lead by Professor Vo Van Toi, Tufts University, visited several Vietnamese biomedical engineering educational and research institutions in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. The objective of the visit was to assess the needs in Vietnam and recommend steps that would enhance the development of biomedical engineering programs in Vietnam, and cooperation with U.S. scientific communities. The delegation participants found that biomedical engineering research, education, and industry have been steadily growing in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and to a lesser extent, in Can Tho. The Vietnamese policy makers in the central government and the local governments are aware of the importance of biomedical engineering in the development of the country. Overall, Vietnam possesses a great potential for international collaborative research, and urgently needs educators and supplies. This is a great opportunity for the United States to contribute to the development of biomedical engineering activities in Vietnam, in a collaboration that would be mutually beneficial for the researchers and educators of both countries. This report describes the current situation, the needs in Vietnam, and gives recommendations.


Tóm Lược:


Được sự bảo trợ của Viện Khoa Học Quốc Gia Hoa-Kỳ (National Science Foundation), một phái đoàn giáo , chuyên viên khoa học gia Hoa-Kỳ, dưới sự hướng dẫn của Giáo Văn Tới (Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts), đă viếng thăm một số viện nghiên cứu đại học giảng dạy về kỹ thuật y sinh tại Nội, TP. Hồ Chí Minh Cần Thơ vào đầu tháng Giêng năm 2004. Mục đích của chuyến viếng thăm này để thẩm định những nhu cầu căn bản của ngành công nghệ y sinh tại Việt Nam qua đó đề nghị những biện pháp thiết yếu nhằm thúc đẩy sự phát triển của ngành công nghệ này, song song với việc đẩy mạnh sự hợp tác giữa các cộng đồng khoa học Hoa-Kỳ Việt Nam trong tương lai. Các thành viên của phái đoàn nhận thấy những sinh hoạt của ngành công nghệ y sinh trong các lĩnh vực khảo cứu, giáo dục công nghiệp Nội TP. Hồ Chí Minh đang phát triển một cách đầy khích lệ trong khi mức độ phát triển của ngành nàyCần Thơ tương đối khiêm tốn hơn. Các giới chức thẩm quyền Việt Namcả trung ương địa phương đều ư thức về vai tṛ quan trọng của ngành công nghệ y sinh trong việc phát triển quốc gia. Một cách tổng quát, bên cạnh tiềm năng to lớn về hợp tác khảo cứu quốc tế, Việt Nam đang đối diện với một nhu cầu khẩn thiết về cả yếu tố nhân sự lẫn phương pháp tiếp cận về giáo dục để thể phát triển lănh vực công nghệ y sinh. Đây một hội lớn lao cho Hoa-Kỳ trong việc đóng góp vào sự phát triển những họat động công nghệ y sinh tại Việt Nam một hợp tác hữu ích cho những nhà giáo dục giới nghiên cứucả hai quốc gia. Bản tường tŕnh này tả thực trạng nhu cầu hiện tại của Việt Nam. Bản tường tŕnh cũng đề nghị một số biện pháp cần được thực hiện.




Professor Vo Van Toi of Tufts University led a U.S. delegation, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), and Can Tho, Vietnam from January 4, 2004 to January 15, 2004; several Vietnamese biomedical engineering educational and research institutions were visited. The delegation consisted of seven professors and other experts in Biomedical Engineering from several American universities and the National Institutes of Health. The working format consisted of short presentations at Hanoi University of Technology, HCMC University of Technology, and Can Tho University from the U.S. delegation members, as well as from several Vietnamese educators, researchers, and local policy makers. Site visits to key laboratories and establishments were also conducted, and round table discussions were held between the two countries’ representatives.


In the “Background” section of this report, the objectives and the significance of the project, profiles of the U.S delegation, and a review of the infrastructure of the Vietnamese Biomedical Engineering research and education system are presented. The “Resources and Activities” section consists of the fact-finding results, and is based on visits to the laboratories and institutions. This section is divided into three main parts that correspond to the three areas that were visited: Hanoi, HCMC and Can Tho. Biomedical Engineering education in Vietnam is presented in the “Biomedical Engineering Curriculum” section. In the “Assessment” section the education and research needs in Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam are identified from the inputs obtained during the visit. The “Recommendations” section reflects our thoughts of what need to be done from both American and Vietnamese sides to enhance the Biomedical Engineering activities in Vietnam and establish effective collaborations between the two countries. At the end of this section we propose a five-year plan to implement some actions. The “Miscellaneous” section describes other activities of the delegation in Vietnam. The “Acknowledgements” section concludes the report.


The descriptions of the institutions in this report are not exhaustive; nor are the institutions the only ones in Vietnam devoted to Biomedical Engineering. We invite the Vietnamese institutions not mentioned in this report to contact Professor Vo Van Toi, the principal investigator (PI) of this project, in order to expand this document to reflect a complete picture of biomedical engineering education and research in Vietnam.


The goal of this report is to pave the way for future collaborations between the Biomedical Engineering communities of Vietnam and the United States. This report is generated with the contribution of the delegation members who have made every effort to see that the contents of this report reflect both the observations and opinions of all delegation members. Any errors or omissions should be reported to the PI. Comments and suggestions related to this report are welcome and should be sent to the PI as well.



I.                 Background




Biomedical Engineering is a multidisciplinary domain, linking 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, regenerative medicine, medical optics, clinical engineering and biotechnology, and requires expertise in different areas of applied and basic sciences.


The objective of the visit to Vietnam was to assess the general and specific needs in the field of Biomedical Engineering by meeting with Vietnamese faculty and government officials. The activities included visits to key departments, laboratories and local industries. Delegation participants explored possibilities for the establishment of future collaborative efforts between researchers and educators from the two countries. The information gathered by the delegation provides a starting point related to the state of development of Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam. The goal was to identify important steps that could lead to the enhancement of Biomedical Engineering research and education in Vietnam, and cooperation between U.S. and Vietnamese scientific communities.




Interest in Biomedical Engineering activities has grown considerably in Vietnam in recent years. Researchers in Vietnam are of high quality and possess a firm willingness to focus on emerging technologies that provide appropriate programmatic structure and opportunities. The traditions, environment and conditions within the country offer 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 United States.


The proposed visit would be mutually beneficial for researchers and educators in both countries. Biomedical Engineering has experienced rapid growth in the U.S. in recent years. An international collaboration in research and education will offer another dimension to U.S. researchers and educators. Vietnam is a dynamic country and is aggressively looking to develop research and education in biomedical engineering. Vietnam offers researchers unexplored and unique topics, such as efforts to integrate traditional Vietnamese medicine into Western medical technology. Vietnam is the tenth most populous country in the world and demographically the youngest. The visit was a first step to for U.S. researchers to assess the needs of the country in education, research and industry in order to develop coherent future joint proposals.


U.S. Delegation members


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 Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. Prior to 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: 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 Director of the Biomedical Engineering Program. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.  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 co-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 include the Image Processing conference at SPIE Medical Imaging, IEEE Symposiums on Computer-Based Medical Systems, and BioMedical Visualization.  He is an Associate Editor of  IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging.  His research interests include Medical Imaging, Pattern Recognition, 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 research team 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 Assistants to the U.S. delegation were:


-         Dr. Clarissa Ceruti, Ph.D., MBA, Associate Director of the Bioengineering Center at Tufts University

-         Professor Le Quang Xang, Ph.D., Can Tho University

-         Dr. Lu Hung, Ph.D., Consultant


Infrastructure of Research and Education Related to Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam



The research and education system related to Biomedical Engineering in Vietnam is in full growth and its infrastructure is indicated in the following top-down diagrams. The institutions mentioned in more detail in this report are indicated in bold face and underlined.



Office of the Prime Minister
















Figure 1:  This diagram shows the governmental organization of the institutions mentioned in this report. The National Center for Natural Science and Technology (NCST) and Vietnam National University (VNU) are at the level of the ministry. This indicates the importance of these institutions in research and higher education policy. There are about 150 universities under the Ministry of Education and Training and 8 under VNU. The VNU in HCMC has 4 universities, among them the newly established International University, Vietnam's first public international university. It will offer all courses in English for undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in information technology, biotechnology, electronics and telecommunications, and business administration.



National Center for Natural Science & Technology











Figure 2:  The NCST (renamed as the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology since the beginning of 2004) is devoted mainly to research, however it will grant graduate degrees in the near future. Many of its institutes are located in and around Hanoi. A few are in other parts of the country.



















Figure 3: Formally the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, the current Ministry of Science and Technology has many institutions under its jurisdiction, including the National Center for Scientific and Technological Information (Director: Dr. Ta Ba Hung), which manages the Vietnam Information Network for Science and Technology Advance (VISTA) Network. VISTA is the largest Vietnamese science and technology database with diverse and unique resources on science and technology in Vietnam and elsewhere.




Ministry of Education and Training













Figure 4: Currently the International Training Institute for Materials Science (ITIMS) is independent of Hanoi University of Technology (HUT) as shown in this diagram. However, it has been decided that ITIMS will soon become an entity under HUT.



Hanoi University of Technology


Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications


Electronics Technology Department


















Figure 5: Hanoi University of Technology (HUT) was established in 1956. Today it has about 1,200 teaching staff, 30,000 undergraduates and 2,000 postgraduates in 90 specializations.
















Figure 6: Can Tho University was founded in 1966 and is the largest state university in the Mekong Delta.




Ministry of Health















Figure 7: Vietnam Medical Equipment Corp (VINAMED) consists of eight companies including the Vietnam Medical Equipment Company (VIMEC) as indicated above. However, according to a government plan in effect since 2000, by 2005 all companies under the VINAMED will be privatized. By 2004 VIMEC will become a joint stock company.



Ministry of Health


Ministry of Education and Training












Figure 8: Until recently, the University of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy at Can Tho belonged to the University of Can Tho.



Vietnam National University







VNU at Hanoi





















Figure 9: It should be noted that the status of HCMC University of Technology is different from its counterpart in Hanoi (HUT). HUT is under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Education and Training.







II.               Resources and Activities




Meeting dates: January 6 and 7, 2004, at Hanoi University of Technology (HUT).

Vietnamese presentations given by:

-         Mr. Duong Van Tinh, Director, Department of Medical Equipment and Construction, Ministry of Health

-         Mr. Nguyen Phan Kien, Instructor in Biomedical Electronics Center- HUT

-         Professor Nguyen Van Tri, Institute of Engineering Physics, HUT

Sites visited:

-         Laboratory of BME- HUT (Professor Nguyen Duc Thuan),

-         Laboratory of Molecular Electronic Dynamics of Materials and Biomedical systems (Professor Nguyen Van Tri),

-         International Training Institute for Materials Science (Professor Than Duc Hien and Professor Nguyen Duc Chien)

-         National Center for Natural Science and Technology (Professor Dang Vu Minh)

-         Institute of Biotechnology (Dr. Nong Van Hai)




1. Hanoi University of Technology


Hanoi University of Technology (HUT) was established in 1956 and is located in Hanoi. The university is the first engineering university and has been one significant educational institution for engineers and researchers in almost all industries and engineering fields in Vietnam.


The university has 10 Engineering Departments, 4 Institutes and 17 Centers for education and research purposes in a variety of engineering fields, including Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Electronics and Telecommunication, Biological and Food Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, Textile Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Economics and Managements. There are many engineering laboratories managed by HUT’s departments, Institutes, and Centers. In additions, HUT is also a host of 6 national R&D laboratories specialized in Automation, Polymer and Composite Materials, Environmental Technologies, Petroleum Refineries and Catalyses, Combustion Engines, Metal Materials.


HUT offers undergraduate programs in 89 specialized engineering fields. The graduate department of the university offered degrees of Master of Science and Ph.D. Among more than 1,100 lecturers of HUT, there are 240 professors or associate professors and 600 Ph.D. HUT has an enrollment of more than 17,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students.


The university has close cooperation relationships with almost industries in Vietnam. Upon international relations, the university has established relations with many foreign universities over the worlds as well as international companies, which are operating in Vietnam.


2. Biomedical Electronics Center (BME) at HUT


Established in 1999 by HUT Administration Board and Ministry of Health.

Director: Dr. Nguyen Duc Thuan

Staff: 20 staff members with 3 professors, 3 Ph.D. and 5 M.Sc., including researchers, lecturers, engineers, and collaborators from HUT and other institutions


Facilities:   3 Labs for research and practice

-         Lab of Biomedical Signal Measurement

-         Lab of Biomedical Signal Processing Circuits

-         Lab of Practical Biomedical Equipment



-         Manage the undergraduate program in Biomedical Electronics.

-         Conduct research and development of electronic technologies and applications in biomedical field.

-         Provide consulting service on maintenance, repair, installation, and manufacture of medical equipment.

-         Provide training courses in the field of biomedical electronics.


National and international cooperation relations with:

-         Many hospitals and universities in Vietnam.

-         Institute of biomedical engineering and medical informatics – Technical University of Ilmenau (Germany).

-         Universities of VLIR (Belgium).

-         Saint Petersburg State Technical University

-         Several universities and companies from Australia, Italia, Korea, …


Achievements:  The Center is in the process of development and improvement both in staff and facilities. Since its establishment in late 1999, the BME Center has achieved the followings:


-         Developed the first undergraduate program in Biomedical Electronics in Vietnam. The curriculum of the program is under on-going improvement.

-         Completed all lectures and related documents for specialty training and they are also under on-going improvement.

-         Educated the first groups of 30 Biomedical engineers. These engineers graduated in 2002 and all of them were offered jobs at hospitals and other medical-related institutions.

-         Being technical advisors on maintenance, repair, installation, and manufacture of medical equipment for hospitals.

-         Fulfilled a number of technical projects for medical applications of electronic techniques such as:

o       Training equipment of electronic techniques (DATS2000, EDTS2000).

o       Training equipment for biomedical signal processing, computerize tomography simulator (CT- Simulator).

o       Orbital shaking machine for Biology field.

o       Equipment for eyes treatments. It is working well at National Eyes Hospital (GAL).

o       Muscle treatment equipment (ETE) for rehabitation. It is working well at E Hospital.


3. Vietnamese national policy regarding medical equipment

People – Mr. Duong Van Tinh, Director, Department of Medical Equipment and Construction, Ministry of Health


In October 2002, the Prime Minister ratified the National Policy on medical equipment in the period of 2002-2010 by decision No. 130/2002/QD-TTg. The National Policy consists of main objectives; solutions for management, production, trade, utilization and use of medical equipment; as well as results and development technology and manpower training for medical equipment area. In addition a Vietnamese Association of Medical Equipment was created in December 2002 and the First National Conference on Medical Equipment convened in December 2002 to outline the current status in this field as well as the directions to be taken. One of the proposals is the formation of manpower to satisfy the urgent need of the country. In June 2003 a conference on the study of design and manufacturing of medical equipment met in Hanoi where many Vietnamese medical device companies reported their progress and future plans.


4. International Training Institute for Materials Science (ITIMS)  


People – Professor Than Duc Hien (Director), Professor Nguyen Duc Chien (Vice Director)


Established in collaboration with the Netherlands in 1992 by the Ministry of Education and Training, the International Training Institute for Materials Science (ITIMS) promotes research projects and educational programs in the area of material science. The main research areas of ITIMS are:


·        Biosensors and electrochemical sensors

·        Magnetic materials and applications

·        Optoelectronic and photonic materials

·        High-Tech superconducting materials

·        Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)

·        Bio-composite materials


ITIMS offers degree programs–master’s and Ph.D.–in co-operation with Vietnamese and foreign institutes or universities. Moreover, the Institute has an impressive number of international collaborations with the Netherlands, France, England, India, Sweden, Belgium, Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Australia, and United States.


Review of Facilities – The Institute focuses on electronic materials fabrication and characterization. It houses MS and Ph.D. students and hosts international researchers. The Institute has a variety of analytical equipment including a clean room, vapor deposition and sputtering equipment, photolithography, vacuum evaporation, and many of the required electrical, magnetic, computer and associated systems. The Institute staff conducts research, trains the students and helps build the scientific and industry growth in electronics materials. The current areas of study of most relevance to Biomedical Engineering are in biosensors and electrochemical sensors. Various enzyme-based electrodes are being studied. In addition, there are studies on the formation of bio-composites, with a focus on natural fibers to improve mechanical properties of materials. From the limited time and discussion it appears that most of this research is at the early stage and mainly supports the educational mission more than new exploratory research.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – In general, the analytical facilities seemed reasonable at the basic level, and could provide support to biomedical engineering if available resources were mobilized and directed towards the field. The areas that could be the best fit based on current equipment and capabilities include the surface modification of materials to control biological interactions, characterization of new composite materials, development of novel devices based on new biomaterials, characterization of materials on the nanoscale, and the production and utilization of novel biomaterials based on biopolymers derived from agricultural sources in Vietnam. A strong biological component in areas of cell biology will be needed to complement this type of effort.


5. National Center for Natural Science and Technology and its Institute of Biotechnology

People - Professor Dang Vu Minh (General Director), Mr. Nguyen Gia Lap (Deputy Director, International Cooperation Department), Mr. Tran Nguyen Minh (Deputy Chef of the NCST’s Cabinet), Dr. Nong Van Hai (Head of the Applied DNA Technology Lab), Dr. Truong Nam Hai (Deputy Director, Head of Genetic Engineering Lab), Dinh Duy Khang (Head of Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology).


Review of Facilities - Founded in 1993, the Natural Center for Science and Technology (NCST) is a national agency with affiliated institutes operating in various parts of the country that promotes the research and development of natural science and technology under the direct supervision of the Vietnamese Government (Note: Recently it has been renamed as the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology). The NCST includes 18 research institutes, 9 sub-institutes, 16 scientific and technological enterprises, and several supporting units, such as the Institute for Scientific Information, the Center for Training and Technology Transfer, and the Coordination Center for Space Technology Application. In 2003, NCST employed 115 senior researchers, 866 Ph.D.s, 163 Doctors of science, 199 Associate Professors, and 79 Professors.


The main research areas of NCST are information technology, biotechnology, material science, marine science and technology, ecology and environment, biological resources and natural active compounds, electronics, scientific equipment and automation, natural disaster forecast and mitigation. NCST considers international cooperation important to improve its knowledge in research and education. Between 1975 and 1990, the Center established collaborations with the Academy of Science in the former Soviet Union and in other East European countries, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) in Germany.


The main areas of current focus directly relevant to Biomedical Engineering were in the Institute of Biotechnology. The Institute is exceptionally well supplied with state-of-the-art equipment, materials and supplies all of which are on the level of those used in university laboratories in the US. It appears that regular servicing and maintenance of the equipment as well as the training for its use are in place. In particular, a strong genomics and proteomics capability was evident and growing in importance. A strong capability was also evident in microbial systems and the production of recombinant proteins. The laboratory had good equipment to support these needs with an expanding program (as a new Key Laboratory) in areas of genome characterization and proteomics using mass spectroscopy.


Overall, this laboratory was the best one we saw during our visit to the three universities in Vietnam, both with respect to the available of top-quality equipment and the highly trained and capable staff leading the effort. Some laboratories appeared not to be fully utilized. The research projects presented to us included the characterization of gene profiles of the various ethnic groups in Vietnam, mapping of novel animals or plants in Vietnam at both genomic and proteomic levels, and the isolation and characterization of novel protein therapeutics from native species of plants in Vietnam.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – As described above, there are a number of strong core competencies, as well as the required equipment and expertise, at this Institute that can feed directly or indirectly into biomedical engineering. Specifically, issues related to genomics can have implications for the impact of selective therapeutic strategies on the population in comparison to other populations around the world, the protein characterization tools can be brought to bear on selective novel protein-based biomaterials from novel organisms in Vietnam, and the fermentation and microbial capability in both equipment and trained personnel would provide a suitable start for developing a program strategy in the production of novel biomaterials and therapeutics based on the flora and fauna in Vietnam. Maximizing the utilization of these laboratories and making them available to students and researchers from other institutions would be most helpful, given how limited are the resources for biomedical engineering work in Vietnam.


6. National Center for Laser Technology (Nacenlas)


People – Dr. Tran Ngoc Liem (Director), Dr. Le Dinh Nguyen (Vice-Director), Mr. Le Huy Tuan (Chief of Medical Electronic Department)


Review of Facilities - Nacenlas was established in 1984 and is part of the National Centre for Technological Progress (Nacentech). Its activities included:

*Biomedical laser design and applications

*Industrial laser applications

*Laser for metrology and protecting environment


The work force in biomedical engineering alone includes 4 Ph.D., 15 engineers and 4 M.D. The center has developed many laser-based instruments and placed them in hundreds of hospitals in over the country and exported them to Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia. These instruments include CO2, He-Ne, Diode lasers using in physiotherapy, cancer treatment, surgery, noninvasive destruction of kidney stones, and acupuncture. Its devices have been used in different clinical research projects. Recently the center has successfully developed a thermal imaging device to be used to screen people suspected having SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). In comparison with the devices currently used at the Vietnamese airports and manufactured by Cantronic, model IR860 (Canada), the device developed by the Nacenlas is equivalent or better in different aspects.


The center is in debating whether it must stay in the research and development of biomedical devices or devote to the manufacturing and marketing. Vietnam currently doesn’t have a mechanism equivalent to the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) in the U. S.


“SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small business to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.”


“STTR is an important new small business program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena. Central to the program is expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include the joint venture opportunities for small business and the nation's premier nonprofit research institutions. STTR's most important role is to foster the innovation necessary to meet the nation's scientific and technological challenges in the 21st century.”


7. Center for Advanced Materials Technology (AMT) 


People - Bui Cong Khe, Phan Van An (Director)


Review of Facilities - The AMT was created in 2002 and is also part of Nacentech. Its missions include applications of materials technology in the life sciences. It has successfully applied composite carbon from Russia to create limb prostheses and other materials used in rehabilitation engineering. It has produced almost 20,000 prostheses including more than 3,000 above-knee prostheses, almost 9,000 below-knee prostheses, 2,000 arms and 1,000 braces. These numbers however are still not enough to satisfy the demand of the country. It has also produced carbon fiber reinforced composite plate for bone joints and carbon composite implants for cranioplasty. Porous Carbon and Ceramics are the two materials that the center is currently interested in developing their applications.


8. Biomedical Engineering Physics, HUT


People– Professor Nguyen Van Tri (Director) et al.

Review of Facilities- The physics group presented studies related to new detoxification methods for chemicals such as dioxins and characterization of novel materials from Vietnam agricultural sources. These novel materials included semiconducting polymers derived from natural sources and extracts from natural sources that bind and detoxify chemicals. Additional fields of study emphasized for the future included nano-biomedicine, biomedical optics and medical information technology.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – It was difficult to assess the information provided. It appears that there are some empirical efforts underway and some attempts at mechanistic insight such as with the porphyrin-dioxin complexes. However, the overall research effort is at a beginning stage.




Meeting dates: January 9 and 10, 2004, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMC -UT).

Vietnamese presentations given by:

-         Dr. Nguyen Thanh Son, Vice Rector of HCMC-UT

-         Dr. Nguyen The Dung, Director of Health Service in HCMC

-         Mr. Dao Van Tuyet, NCST in HCMC

-         Professor Nguyen Quang Long, Department of Traumatology and Orthopedics, University of Pharmacy and Medicine in HCMC, Cho Ray Hospital

-         Professor Tran Minh Thai, Faculty of Applied Sciences, HCMC-UT

-         Tran Dinh Hop, Medical Laser Association in Binh Duong Province

-         Dr. Tran Cong Toai, Improving and Training Health Staff Center in HCMC

-         Dr. Nguyen The Dung, Director of HCMC Health Department

-         Dr. Truong Hung, Director of VIMEC, HCMC

-         Dr. Huynh Quang Linh, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Head of the Biomedical Engineering Department, HCMC-UT  

Sites visited:

-         Department of Informatics, HCMC-UT

-         Teaching Laboratory of Biomedical Engineering Department, HCMC-UT

-         Facility of the Center of Training of Gifted Engineering Students (PFIEV), HCMC-UT

-         Center of Treatment of children with cereal palsy using semi-conductor Laser device developed by HCMC-UT

-         Institute of Tropical Biology, Vietnam National Center for Natural Science and Technology




1. Ho Chi Minh City–University of Technology


Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology offers bachelor’s degree programs in 44 different fields, Master’s degrees in 23 fields, and the Ph.D. in 27 fields. In addition, in collaboration with foreign universities joint postgraduate programs are offered in:


·        Business Administration (SAV) in collaboration with the Swiss Government

·        Master in Business Administration (MBA) in collaboration with the Maastricht School of Management

·        Mechanics in Construction and Aeronautics (EMMC) in collaboration with the Liege University, Belgium

·        Modeling in Continuum (ASIA IT&C) in collaboration with the European Union


The university also hosts nine Centers and one company, a consulting company in civil engineering.


In 2002–2003, the Ministry of Education and Training and the HCMC National University granted permission to establish degree programs in Biomedical Engineering (BME), namely M.S., Ph.D., engineering, in-service training engineering, distance learning, and specific training (short-term technical training for medical staff in selected BME areas). In that first year, the HCMC-UT enrolled 44 Ph.D. students. Currently, the research areas of the BME programs are the following:


·        Biomedical Instrumentation

·        Bio-optics properties for living disuse, biocompatible materials, and simulations

·        Low power semiconductor Laser acupuncture and optotherapy.


Future areas of research that the University wants to focus on are:


·        Medical informatics, such as telemedicine and medical imaging processing

·        Biomedical opto-laser application

·        Nano-biomedicine


2. Biomedical-Informatics of NCST in Ho Chi Minh City


People - Mr. Dao Van Tuyet, NCST in HCMC

Review of Facilities - Several projects were presented that pertain to biomedical engineering. Specifically, a branch of the Institute of Information Technology (IOIT-HCMC) is running a large data base effort that integrates applied math and applied technology and science, focused on basic science in information technology, applications and technology transfer. Biomedical information and bioinformatics are focal areas and a database of selected natural products in tropical areas (e.g., rice, basafish, black tiger shrimp and Anopheles gambiae), and the development of software tools are part of this effort. The Institute of Tropical Biology (see above) contributes to this program. The laboratories we visited were mostly for undergraduate teaching, and the equipment was scarce and not helpful for conducting biomedical research.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – The institute has an important role in biomedical engineering but it is unclear where these activities might fit in relation to those in Hanoi. The level of laboratory equipment/capability was rather low and inadequate for conducting biomedical research. It was also not clear how the database management tools that were being developed were unique to Vietnam, thus more interactions with similar groups in the U.S. would seem appropriate.



3. Institute of Tropical Biology – Vietnam National Center for Natural Science and Technology, Ho Chi Minh City


People - Dr. Nguyen Thi Quynh (Deputy Director) et al.

Review of Facilities - Since 1996, the Institute of Tropical Biology (ITB) has been a training unit of the Ministry of Education and Training. The goal of ITB is to promote scientific research in biotechnology, plant physiology and biochemistry, bio-organic chemistry, microbiology, ecology and bio-resources for socio-economic development of Vietnam. The 108 scientists employed at ITB include 6 associate professors, 13 Ph.D. researchers, and 20 M.S. researchers. In 2002, the facility consisted of a research station with 10 laboratories in plant genetic engineering, plant cell technology, microbiology, bio-conversion technology, plant growth regeneration and bio-active compounds, animal biotechnology, ecological engineering and environmental quality management, terrestrial ecology, aquatic ecology, and herbarium.


Current projects include:


·        transformation of Vietnamese key agricultural crops using Agrobacterium vectors

·        micropropagation in vitro of agriculturally important crops

·        enzyme approaches for conversion of cassava starch to high fructose corn syrup

·        fermentation to generate pesticides

·        culture methods for production of insect cells for viral propagation

·        disease detection in shrimp, and

·        wastewater treatment from pig farms.


The equipment available for research is scarce, old and inadequate. The laboratory has recently been awarded Key Laboratory status and is therefore expecting a 3 million investment of government funds to upgrade equipment and hire new researchers.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – None of the current activities at the Institute is focused on biomedical engineering and the status of equipment is rather poor (to be in part improved with the new Key Laboratory status). Some of the analytical skill areas that are being developed could have impact down the road, however, with the main focus on more immediate agricultural needs it is not clear what role if any this Institute could play in the biomedical engineering field. However, should future directions call for the production of pharmaceutical (e.g., low cost vaccines) and transgenic plants such as banana, then the Institute’s role could quickly expand. In addition, with their direct links to field stations, they can also be a valuable source for collection of novel insects and plants for ‘bio-mining’ relevant to new biomaterials.



4. Vietnam Medical Equipment Company (VIMEC),


People - Mr. Truong Hung, President


Review of Facilities - VIMEC is the Ministry of Health’s importer, and was founded in 1976. The company supplies chemicals, medical instruments, and equipment; also it provides after-sale service (maintenance, calibration, repair) to governmental health care services and private industry, and to the food and fishing industries. Most of the equipment is imported from Europe, Japan and the United States. It also markets products developed by Vietnamese academic institutions.


VIMEC conducts training courses and seminars (often in collaboration with equipment manufacturers) for technicians from the provincial hospitals. The company employs 170 people, of whom 40 are electrical and electronics engineers. The company has invested more than $110,000 in test equipment for calibration and safety assurance. The company also provides translation of user and technical manuals from English (or other languages) into Vietnamese, and in some cases adjunct labeling of equipment in Vietnamese. Mr. Truong noted that there are no funds for training of staff in the provinces. He observed that this is aggravating the consequences of the lack of standardization: of equipment use, misuse of equipment (leading to its failure), and in some cases, disuse and abandonment of new and complicated equipment. According to a recent survey, of the 2000 X-ray devices in use only 12% has safety permits.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering - There is a clear need for regular and extensive training in medical instrumentation and biomedical technology, for two groups of people: the engineers and technicians who specify, install, and maintain the equipment; and the medical staff (nurses, pharmacists, and physicians) who use it. Also, there is a need for assistance to hospital administrators who recommend and purchase equipment. They need informed advice about the suitability to their needs of various kinds of equipment.


Dr. Nguyen The Dung, director of the HCMC Health Department, in a related presentation, noted that he is willing to invest in seed projects that will lead to self-sustaining operations. He is interested in collaborations among universities and hospitals. 



5. University of Pharmacy and Medicine, Department of Traumatology and Orthopedics, Cho Ray Hospital

People– Professor Nguyen Quang Long

Review of Facilities - The current focus in terms of biomaterials for orthopedic repair is on carbon composites consisting of carbon fibers and polyamine matrices. The materials have been under study since 1992, mainly to stabilize long bone fractures and for cranial repair. The carbon-based materials were selected due to availability, their light weight and low cost.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – The capabilities with producing biomaterials and assessing their properties in vitro and in vivo seem to be at the rudimentary level. There will be a need to gain further training and experience with additional materials, techniques (materials-related and biologically-related) to advance the field further here in Vietnam. At present, it is not clear if new technology is being brought to the study of the carbon based materials, or if these materials are used only because they are relatively inexpensive and readily available. A clearer scientific assessment of the rationale for focus on these materials seems to a useful starting point to match with the needs in the country.



6. Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology – Lasers in Acupuncture and Drug Detoxification

People– Professor Tran Minh Thai (Chair of Applied Physics faculty) and Mr. Tran Dinh Hop

Review of Facilities - Two talks focused on laser acupuncture. The first, by Prof. Dr. Tran Minh Thai, entitled 'Application of low power infrared laser in acupuncture' was accompanied by a 13 page paper in the proceedings. The second, by Tran Dinh Hop, entitled 'Method of cessation of withdrawal symptoms in drug addiction detoxification by using low-power semiconductor lasers' was provided as a 2-page supplemental handout.


Equipment was on display in the lecture hall that had been built at HCMC University of Technology specifications were not available. Photos were taken of equipment, and one poster (in Vietnamese) on hemiplegia was available. Two visits to lasers in acupuncture service delivery centers were planned, only one of which occurred, to the Trung Tam Y Hoc Co Truyen (Center of Traditional Medicine) in Tan Dinh. We observed children with cerebral palsy being treated. In one case, lasers in acupuncture was claimed to allow a child with cerebral palsy to begin walking.


Traditional acupuncture involves placement of needles at acupuncture points to achieve therapeutic outcomes. Because of the concern over transmission of HIV/Aids using needles, lasers in acupuncture has been proposed as a potential alternative. The use of Lasers in acupuncture is hypothesized to deliver an effect comparable to needles at the acupuncture sites without penetrating the skin. This appears to be one area of biomedical engineering in which Vietnam is relatively advanced and as compared to other countries. They had data on 5,000 patients for treatment of hemiplegia and 10,000 patients for treatment of sinusitis. In the printed material, only case studies of hemiplegia and spondylosis were provided. These were all successful cases. The second paper on treating drug addiction involved 51 patients claimed successful results, but insufficient information and data were presented to justify this claim. The first presentation also included a comparable section on this application.


HCMC University of Technology also sponsored two national meetings that had technical content related to laser acupuncture. Copies of these proceedings were provided to members of the delegation. One meeting in 1998 had sections on equipment, fundamental research, and clinical research. The proceedings of the 8th Conference on Science and Technology (25-26 April 2002) had a subsection devoted to laser acupuncture.


Relevance to Biomedical Engineering - The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is 1 of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCCAM is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. NCCAM was established by Congress in 1998. NCCAM issued a consensus statement on Acupuncture which is at:


"Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States. There have been many studies of its potential usefulness. However, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebo and sham acupuncture groups. However, promising results have emerged, for example, efficacy of acupuncture in adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma for which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful. Findings from basic research have begun to elucidate the mechanisms of action of acupuncture, including the release of opioids and other peptides in the central nervous system and the periphery and changes in neuroendocrine function. There appears to be sufficient evidence of acupuncture's value to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value."


This appears to be one area of biomedical engineering in which Vietnam that is relatively advanced and as compared to other countries. In many ways, laser acupuncture could be seen as similar to electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscle, which had several successful companies in the United States over a number of decades. A MEDLINE search revealed that there have been a number of studies in laser acupuncture published in recent years (none from Vietnam). A copy of these search results should be forwarded to the Vietnamese, with the encouragement to get some of their results published in international journals, and to attempt to market their existing equipment to researchers in Europe and North America.



7. Tissue Center in Ho Chi Minh City University


People: Tran Cong Toai, (MD, Ph.D.)


Review of Facilities – This laboratory was established in 1993 and is pursuing quality standards for cells and tissues in the country. Quality control, sterilization procedures, genetics, biodegradable synthetic polymers, and tissue and cell culture are some of the focal areas at the Center. We did not visit the facility, however, according to the presentation, there is capability for collection and assessment of donor tissues, tissue allografts including bone, cartilage, dura matter, pericardium, and amniotic membrane with the associated storage capabilities. Coral (xenograft) is also be used to form composite materials for surgical applications due to the current lack of sufficient types of bone for different surgical needs. Quality standards have been established as have sterilization requirements (gamma irradiation). Active interactions with Thailand are in place. There is no final government protocol for the use of these materials, however, this information is expected to be disseminated in the next year. This will guide further expansion of the programs in the Tissue Center.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering – This activity can play a major role in the growth of biomedical engineering in the country. A central facility with appropriate tissue matrices (autografts, allografts, xenografts) and most importantly the critical quality control standards and ethical guidelines in place, can greatly facilitate availability of materials for research and clinical programs throughout the country as well as the appropriate training. This facility can serve as a coordination point for promulgation of guidelines for the country by interactions with other countries and placing the information gained in the context of Vietnam in terms of cultural, religious and political inputs. Importantly, the tissue center has interest in expanding its research of biomaterials, and starting research programs in the areas of cell and tissue culture.



Can Tho


Meeting dates: January 12 and 13, 2004 at Can Tho University

Vietnamese presentations given by:

-         Le Ngoc Cua and Huynh Thanh Liem, Can Tho General Hospital

-         Nguyen Huu Hiep, Biotechnology Research and Development Institute, Can Tho University

-         Huynh Quyet Thang, Oncology Department, Can Tho General Hospital

-         Tran Van Nha, Mechanical Engineering Department, Can Tho University

Sites visited:

-         Different departments of Can Tho General Hospital

-         Facilities of Can Tho University of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy

-         Biotechnology institute

-         Mechanical Engineering machine shops




1. Can Tho University


Founded in 1966, Can Tho University (CTU) is the largest state university in the Mekong Delta. CTU promotes research and applications to serve the needs, mainly agricultural, of the surrounding community. CTU works closely with provincial authorities, private and public enterprises, and the farming community to transfer technology. The university is known for its outreach programs and satellite colleges serving communities throughout the Delta region.


CTU offers training within 43 B.S., 10 M.S., and 4 Ph.D. degree programs. In 2002, the CTU enrolled more than 17,000 full-time students at its campus in Can Tho, and more than 16,000 students in its satellite colleges in Mekong Delta provinces. CTU includes three Centers – the Science and Technology Information Center, the Can Tho University Software Center, and the Center of Foreign Languages, and two Institutes – the Biotechnology Research and Development Institute and the Mekong Delta Farming Systems Research and Development Institute.


CTU has established and maintained collaborative relationships with universities, institutes, governmental, and non-governmental organizations in Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia.



2. Can Tho General Hospital


People: Dr. Huynh Quyet Thang et al.


Review of Facilities - This was the first and only hospital visited by the delegation. Therefore, the observations may not be generalized.


This was a general hospital of about 100 beds. Their services included ICU, cardiology, traumatology, oncology, labor & delivery, orthopedics, nursing, and PT (possibly others that were not mentioned). The director of the hospital did not appear to be fully informed as to what biomedical engineering was or how it could contribute to the function of the hospital. No biomedical engineers were employed in the hospital. The hospital does some training of young physicians, but does not appear to be affiliated with a university.


In response to a question about medical equipment in the hospital, the response was that there was an across the board lack of medical equipment. In response to a question about how additional funding to the hospital would be prioritized, the response was: building renovation, prevention programs, and medical imaging equipment. Our visits confirmed the first and third priority. We visited their medical imaging department. They had a single plane film x-ray machine that was very old (GE France) and a newer CT (Shimadzu Intellect). The CT had a sticker indicating the machine was serviced by Schmidt Vietnam. Most of the surgical instruments were left by U.S. forces at the end of the war. We also visited the post op ward and observed monitoring equipment including: Sirecust 341 (European?) and Nihon Khoden Lifescope 8. Our final visit was to the Physical Therapy Department. We observed the standard parallel bars and weights. Two pieces of equipment included an ultrasound machine that was not working (Enraf Nonius-Delft 'Curapols') and a working muscle stimulator (Excel Isotron III). While there were clear needs for biomedical equipment, the needs for building renovation and additional staff were more obvious.


Relevance to Biomedical Engineering -

Future US delegations need to visit other hospitals and clinics in Vietnam to assess current usage of and needs for medical equipment. The available resources we saw during our visit had little relevance for the development of biomedical engineering.



3. Can Tho University Biotechnology Institute


People - Professor Tran Phuoc Duong (former director) et al.

Review of Facilities - This Institute is one of three special institutes at the University. There are 17 staff members of whom two are Ph.D.s, one of whom is the former director who was trained in microbiology at Michigan State University. The Institute takes a global view of their mission and needs, already maintaining active research collaborations around the world such as with Belgium, Singapore, Malaysia. The research focus is in two areas:


·        traditional fermentation and the improvement of the quality of local products

·        molecular biology with a focus on the use of PCR to develop new test kits and assessments of pathogens relevant to local agricultural needs.


There is an effort to develop PCR based test kits for shrimp viruses (white spot disease) and for fruit tree pathogens. The Director was direct and emphasized the difficulties in research and funding in Vietnam due to governmental policies. He also emphasized the lack of overall quality control in some aspects of ongoing research in Vietnam. The director emphasized needs for Biotechnology in Vietnam in many areas and from many perspectives, including:

·        a biotechnology leader to facilitate governmental support, unlike the prior leader who is now in jail and ran a non-scientifically based funding approach to the needs in the field

·        new strains of plants and animals of agricultural relevance to the country and the region, and methods to assess quality control based on molecular biology

·        assessments of biodiversity of plants and animals in Vietnam

·        medicines for local diseases,

·        automation of health care.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering - While there is not a current emphasis on biomedical engineering, the molecular biology capabilities of the group seem strong and would provide a useful component to a biomedical engineering program at the university.



4.     Mechanical Engineering


People - Professor Tran Van Nha, Professor Duong Thai Cong (Chairman)


Review of Facilities - Professor Tran presented statistics on the number and severity of head injuries in Vietnam. Motorbike drivers constitute about 74% and pedestrians about 18% of the cases. An example cited was that of Ho Chi Minh City: on two days in January 2000 there were 979 emergency cases of head trauma. Part of the treatment in many head injuries is cranioplasty; Professor Tran addressed that aspect of the problem. He proposes to use computerized tomography (CT) data to fabricate a mold that will be used to create an implant made of poly-methyl methacrylate (PMMA). Rapid prototyping and computerized numerical control methods will be driven by data obtained from three-dimensional modeling of the CT data. He proposes to use MIMICS software to create the 3-d reconstruction in a form suitable for rapid prototyping/computerized numerical control generation of the mold. The approach is expected to reduce intra-operative time and the cost of the PMMA implant. This method is based on techniques that he learned while studying at the Asian Institute of Technology in Macau.


In a related activity, we were shown the university's extensive teaching machine shop (containing industrial lathes, milling machines, and other metal-working equipment) and its teaching laboratory, with small-scale computerized numerical control equipment.


Assessment of Capabilities in Biomedical Engineering - There clearly is a need for rapid and inexpensive production of implants in Vietnam. To date, the MIMICS software is not available at the university, nor is the five-axis computerized numerical control milling machine said to be necessary for fabrication of the molds. The intent is to obtain both and to conduct some preliminary tests of the system. The MIMICS software appears to be dated; there definitely are more modern software packages that could be introduced. It is not clear, however, whether the newer software is necessary. No data were presented on the speed or accuracy of the proposed method, so it is neither possible to assess the adequacy of the proposed software, nor the overall savings in intra-operative time.




III.              Biomedical Engineering Curriculum


Biomedical engineering education as currently offered in Universities of Technology in Vietnam is summarized here.


At the Ministry of Health, Duong Van Tinh, M. Sc., is Director, Department of Medical Equipment and Construction. They give high priority for training of biomedical engineers in the 5-year training program at Hanoi University of Technology.


At the Hanoi University of Technology, Professor Nguyen Duc Thuan, Ph.D., directs the Biomedical Electronics Center established September 1999. The teaching staff includes: 7 faculty: 1 Ph.D, 5 M.S. (1 in the field of Biomedical) and 1 B.S.; and 3 teaching assistants: B.S. In the laboratory, students use electric circuit modules from Educational Engineering to learn characteristics of cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators as well as biomedical sensors to measure blood pressure and temperature, and the electrocardiogram. The laboratory contains several computers and a nonworking computerized technology (CT) scanner used for demonstrating how the X-ray source and detectors rotate around the patient and the table moves forward to achieve spiral scanning. The curriculum does not require an internship in hospitals or medical companies or the completion of a project.


In June 2002, the first class of 30 students of Biomedical Electronics graduated and is now working in medical companies in Vietnam. The second class of 31 students is now working on their graduation thesis. Training content focuses on technical knowledge and medical equipment. Future plans are to add biomaterials, sensors, and rehabilitation. Prof. Nguyen Van Tri manages the Magnetic Resonance Lab, which trains about 7 students in medical physics each year.


Graduates from the Biomedical Electronics Center have been placed as follows:

-         1 student is enrolled in a M.S. course in the field of BME in England

-         29 students are working in medical companies and hospitals in Vietnam. Most of them have great desire to continue the M.S. program.

-         6 students are studying M.S. in Electronics and Communications (HUT does not have an M.S. degree in BME)


Some titles of graduation theses:



Multislice CT Scanner (Theory and Device)


Patient Monitoring Systems


Linear Accelerator in Medicine


Test Device Systems in Medicine


Ventilators(Theory and Device)


Ultrasound (Theory and Device)


Angiography (Theory and Device)


Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (Theory and Device)


Kidney Machine (Theory and Device)


Automatic Hematology Analysis Device


Automatic Biochemical Analysis Device


Health Level 7




Design temperature measurement and control circuit on newborn baby chamber


Electrocardiograph evaluation and design


Electrical Treatment Device Design


At the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Dr. Huynh Quang Linh is Head of the Biomedical Engineering Department. Training of students began in 2002-2003 with focus on biomedical instrumentation, biooptics, and opto-acupuncture. They plan to add medical informatics, laser application and nano-biomedicine. The lab contains an electrocardiographic monitor, an ECG simulator, and test equipment for calibration tests. 52 courses are listed in the curriculum and 40 of these plus 2 optional courses are required for the degree.


Truong Hung is the director of the Vietnam Medical Equipment Company (VIMEC). He recommends that by 2005 the equipment and test equipment should be standardized: ECG, blood pressure, SpO2, pH, wavelength, ultrasound (energy, sample), energy (defibrillation), X-ray (standard kVp, mAs, sample), flow, volume (syringe pump, infusion), traction force (spinal column traction). He recommends computerization to acquire information and to program future applications. He recommends the manufacture of simple instruments such as rehabilitation instruments and equipment. From 2005 on he recommends the manufacture of medical instruments for Vietnam.


At the Can Tho University College of Technology no education in biomedical engineering is offered at present.



IV.              Assessments



-         Biomedical Engineering activities in research, education, and industry have been steadily growing in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), and to a lesser extent, in Can Tho. They include biomedical instrumentation, biomaterials, rehabilitation engineering, biotechnology and bioinformatics. The research and educational institutions in Vietnam have continuously received important support from countries such as France, the Netherlands, Japan and Germany. Vietnam is looking forward to initiating these collaborations with the United States.


-         The policy makers in the central government, as well as in the local governments, are aware of the important potential contributions of Biomedical Engineering in the development of the country. The Vietnamese Prime Minister ratified the national policy on medical equipment for the period of 2002-2010 and one of the proposed directions was the creation of manpower to satisfy the needs of the country. In HCMC, Dr. Nguyen The Dung, director of the HCMC Health Department openly requested that the U.S. delegation help develop a self-sustaining model that strengthens collaborations among universities and hospitals. He promised to invest in seed projects that will lead to such operations. There is a great opportunity for the U.S. to contribute to the development of Biomedical Engineering activities in Vietnam. 


-         In education, Biomedical Instrumentation is the core theme at Hanoi University of Technology and at HCMC University of Technology. In these institutions there are formal biomedical engineering undergraduate degrees but no graduate degrees. The biomedical engineering activities at Hanoi University of Technology are strengthened by the contribution of the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunication. At HCMC University of Technology, the Faculty of Applied Physics strengthens biomedical engineering activities; and at Can Tho University the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering strengthens them. In 2002, the Biomedical Electronics Center at Hanoi University of Technology graduated 30 students as its first class with Biomedical Electronics degrees. The newly established Department of Biomedical Engineering at HCMC University of Technology possesses a well-established undergraduate curriculum and a decent teaching laboratory in Biomedical Instrumentation. The department of Mechanical Engineering Department at Can Tho University has a strong willingness to undertake the development of a Biomedical Engineering curriculum. It possesses a well-equipped machine shop and personnel experience that can be efficiently oriented toward Biomedical Engineering. Students in these institutions have opportunities to do real-world projects in local industry such as VIMEC (in HCMC), or in research and development establishments such as NACENLAS (in Hanoi). Overall, there are urgent needs in these institutions in terms of instructors, textbooks, educational resources and communication tools with international communities.


-         In research, some Vietnamese scientists are on the cutting edge in their specialized fields, and some laboratories are as well equipped as any advanced research laboratories in the U.S. One of the research fields in Vietnam that seems to be quite advanced is the application of Lasers in acupuncture (Professor Tran Minh Thai, Faculty of Applied Sciences, HCMC-University of Technology). This laboratory has designed and built its own equipment, and then manufactured and distributed it in different centers, mostly in the south of Vietnam. The study covers the treatments of cerebral palsy, spondylosis, sinusitis, drug addiction and distension of the prostate gland. They have data on 5,000 patients for the treatment of hemiplegia, and 10,000 patients for the treatment of sinusitis. However, these studies have only been published internally. There needs to be collaboration and communication with the international community. The research laboratories of the Institute of Biotechnology and the International Training Institute for Materials Science are very well equipped to conduct advanced research in the biotechnology and biosensors fields, respectively. International researchers would find adequate facilities and high quality collaborators to conduct joint projects. Currently, many of the projects are replicas of topics that are well-established elsewhere. Some, however, are focused on Vietnamese-specific aspects. These are unexplored and unique research topics, specific to Vietnam, which may offer good experiences. Because room exists for the full utilization of current facilities in these institutions, there are needs for creating new research opportunities so that researchers can work on the frontier of their discipline and at the same time focus on practical aspects that the country urgently needs. In Hanoi, HCMC, and Can Tho there are well-established schools of medicine/dental and medicine/pharmacy with fine equipment and personnel. These schools are important elements in the development of practical research in Biomedical Engineering. Joint projects between these schools and the universities of technology are urgently needed. Vietnam must have biomedical engineers who understand the interface between the two fields and the needs of the country to initiate the collaborations. There are many other research institutions around the country with more modest equipment and support. High quality research personnel are the key to the success of any research endeavor. Knowing how to select and keep excellent investigators is a major need in research. Research with depth requires the dedicated teamwork of post-doctoral fellows, graduate students (M.S. and Ph.D.) and technicians with high skills. Vietnam possesses a great potential for international collaborative research.


-         With the privatization of the medical device industry, current companies will have the freedom to expand their activities and import devices. New companies will be created because Vietnam represents a huge market. As a consequence, local companies, which develop and manufacture their own devices, will face fierce competition. This will create demand for education in entrepreneurship and leadership in Biomedical Engineering. As another consequence, researchers and healthcare providers will have the difficult task of choosing the right equipment. There will be a need to introduce engineering education into the medical school curriculum. In addition, many current aspects need to be solved: standardization, regulation, calibration, maintenance and interpretation of the data. This requires resources, knowledge and adroitness from the government to avoid chaos and promote development. The policy makers should develop a plan to encourage foreign companies to contribute their resources to academic development. Some research and development institutions, such as Nacenlas, are facing the dilemma of either pursuing the research and development mission, or manufacturing. This issue along with the issue of technology transfer from universities to industry or from universities to hospitals creates a need for the government to study models such as incubators, SBIRs or STTRs currently utilized in the U.S.



V.                          Recommendations



-         Organize an international symposium: It is recommended that an international symposium on Biomedical Engineering be organized in the near future (by January 2005). The goal of the symposium is to give Vietnamese educators, researchers, administrators and policy makers the opportunity to present their accomplishments, and learn about research and academic models in the U.S. The symposium will be comprised of scientific research presentation and workshops on different topics including undergraduate and graduate curriculum development, technology transfer mechanisms, entrepreneurship and leadership experience, and infrastructure establishment. For each topic a keynote speaker will give an overview, followed by presentations of U.S models and then the formation of working groups whose goal is to find possible solutions for Vietnam. The possible sponsors are the NSF, the NIH, and professional associations that have Biomedical Engineering chapters such as IEEE, AMBS and AIMBE. If successful this symposium will set the tone for regular annual conferences.


-         Align with international communities: It is recommended that Vietnam develop a mechanism to prepare prospective students who desire to study abroad to learn the common practice of the host countries. This includes the language, culture and the selection mechanisms. For the U.S. that means English, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Students should plan well in advance. One year before the expected September starting date, they should take the GRE and TOEFL. They should search websites to identify appropriate universities and specific research projects conducted by faculty members of these universities. In December they should submit their complete applications to at least four universities. After admission, they should apply for visas, which may take a long time to process. Also, it is important to provide formal mechanisms that will secure the return of these scholars into Vietnam (e.g., by requesting a minimum 3-year service following the completion of Ph.D. in the U.S.). The coordination among the Vietnamese government, U.S. embassy, and the Vietnam Education Foundation is critical to the success.

To establish an equitable collaboration with an American institution it is recommended that Vietnam identifies an appropriate Vietnamese American affiliated with that institution to facilitate the interactions and champion its cause.

In the rapidly growing area of biomedical engineering, access to scientific and technical information is clearly the most important requirement for the envisioned development of research activities, and undergraduate and graduate education. Access to books and journals is limited in Vietnam. Thus, a focused effort on extending the biomedical engineering database available to scientists, engineers, and students in Vietnam is recommended. Each university should allocate an annual budget to purchase the latest biomedical engineering textbooks, manuals, and journals for their libraries. Also, it seems that the use of the Internet is quite limited, probably due to its limited speed and capacity. This limits access to electronic journals and technical information. The contributions from the National Center for Scientific and Technological Information, other existing science libraries and newly established e-libraries within the universities are critical for this development.

It is important that Vietnam develops its own culture in Biomedical Engineering. An association should be created to establish a Vietnamese dictionary in Biomedical Engineering and print popular biomedical engineering publications in Vietnamese (as it has already done in biomedical instrumentation field) in parallel with their efforts to publish scientific publications in English to international professional journals.


-         Set priorities: The Vietnamese government has put forth the Biomedical Instrumentation field as a first priority. This U.S. delegation applauds this decision. It is recommended that this should also aim in the direction of rehabilitative engineering and regenerative medicine to enhance the work force.

In the long term, to take advantage of the important investments already made in biotechnology laboratories, it is recommended that cutting-edge research and applied research that lead to commercially viable products in biomaterials, tissue engineering, genomics and proteomics be developed. Also it is important to encourage laboratories that are well equipped in traditional engineering to extend their focus in biomedical engineering.

It is necessary to recognize the importance of research in the whole picture. Research programs should be created along with the development of curricula and the establishment of various training mechanisms at different levels. In the beginning, specific focus areas should be identified where Vietnam has a special interest and/or a unique position, and collaborations with U.S. institutions should be established. Examples of such joint research programs include the evaluation of the underlying mechanisms of a method empirically established in Vietnam, or the evaluation of traditional medicine methods and drugs. We have learned that such collaborative efforts already exist with several countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Japan and Korea, but not with the United States. In most cases, the work has been supported by special funds of the respective foreign governments. One possible mechanism is the inclusion of Vietnamese colleagues into existing research projects. Other mechanisms include travel grants, workshops, and the use of educational and research fellowships such as Fulbright fellowships and the VEF. The establishment of a database of programs and the involvement of students and faculty would be most helpful for coordinating efforts and utilizing the resources.


-         Train the trainers: In order to develop its work force, it is recommended that Vietnam send the people who have experience in Biomedical Engineering, or have advanced degrees (M.S. or Ph.D.) in traditional engineering, to be trained in the U.S. in Biomedical Engineering for a short period of time (3 to 12 months). These people will learn practical issues and specific solutions that allow them to be efficient in solving urgent problems back home.

For the medium and long terms it is recommended that Vietnam establish small cohorts of top-notch educators. They constitute new generations of engineering educators whose mission is to promulgate the bond among education, research and entrepreneurship. All members of each cohort will be educated in the U.S. at the same time, work together in its own departmental infrastructure, have strong links among their duties, develop curricula and conduct research projects. This virtual department will be surrogated by a U.S. institution until it becomes mature then it will move back to its home institution with new knowledge, and adequate and familiar equipment. Therefore this nucleus will continue to be efficient and proliferate by educating younger generations.

Exchange programs for students and faculty to different universities in the U.S. should be pursued to facilitate growth and to introduce emerging technology in the field. It is also important to encourage students to study in the U.S at the undergraduate level. These students will inject new blood into the system to sustain progress.


-         Develop strong local university-hospital-industry connection: The progress of biomedical engineering activities in universities, hospitals, and in industry depends heavily on the collaboration of all three entities. Each entity can take a turn in leading. In one example, the hospital assesses needs, the university provides solutions, and industry provides support. In another scheme, the university provides the innovative ideas, the hospital provides a testing environment, and industry commercializes new products. In the third example the industry projects their needs, the hospital provides the solution and the university provides the realization.

The establishment of the curricula in the university must reflect the feedback from the hospitals and industry. It is recommended that the university establish a board of advisors, which include people from industry and hospitals to constantly update its curriculum.

It is also recommended that strong connections be formed between a university of technology and a university of dental medicine or a medical school. The curricula in one university must contain aspects of the other university to facilitate the collaboration among students. For example, a physiology course in engineering curricula, and an engineering/technology course in medical curricula.

It is recommended that industry provides instruments for teaching and establishes internship programs. A Biomedical Engineering High Tech Park, which regroups companies in the field, should be established near the universities of technology to stimulate the university-industry relationship and student entrepreneurial skills. Students in biomedical engineering programs should be offered the opportunity to work for at least one summer in an instrumentation company, a hospital, or another related activity. The experience will contribute to their understanding of the requirements and constraints of medical equipment design and implementation.


-         Enhance undergraduate curricula and establish graduate/post doctoral/continued education curricula: Undergraduate curricula in biomedical engineering should be brought up to date so that graduates can fill employment needs in private companies and hospitals. These needs include theory and technical skills for the selection, proper use and maintenance of medical devices such as ECG, blood pressure, SpO2, pH, wavelength, ultrasound (energy, sample), energy (defibrillation), X-ray (standard kVp, mAs, sample), flow, volume (syringe pump, infusion), traction force (spinal column traction). With time, the needs are likely to extend to more complex devices and applications.

Graduate curricula in biomedical engineering are practically nonexistent and need to be established. The Ph.D. level training of instructors, who will educate and train students at an advanced level, is the first step. For example, students who have graduated from the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunication, and commit to teaching bioinstrumentation, should be funded to earn a Ph.D. in a university that has a graduate program emphasizing medical devices. After the establishment of bioinstrumentation, students should be selected from mechanical engineering to train in biomechanics, and chemical engineering to train in biomaterials. Different universities in Vietnam could specialize in different fields. After instructors return from Ph.D. training in developed countries, they should establish research and graduate training programs. Seminars, courses and workshops taught in Vietnam by US experts are another modality that could be combined with Ph.D. training, at least in the beginning to enhance the implementation of new information, improve curricula and train students and instructors. We envision sessions that would be intensive, 1 to 4 weeks in duration, and translated into Vietnamese as necessary. Videotaping of lectures, and teleconferencing for distance learning could also be considered to enable further distribution. Also, audiovisual presentations could be prepared in U.S. universities and placed on CDs for presentation in Vietnam, with possible translation into Vietnamese. These CDs could aid in the progress of many developing countries.

Postdoctoral fellowships for Ph.D. level scientists from Vietnam, 1 to 2 years in duration, are a particularly favorable mechanism of training and education, for several reasons. The candidates are already educated to some level, duration of stay is shorter than that needed to earn a Ph.D., and the placement of candidates is easier and faster (no requirements to take the GRE and TOEFL). This may be the most efficient mechanism to establish the scientific basis for specific areas of biomedical engineering in Vietnam. Training in the U.S. for students and faculty can also be achieved through short visits, approximately one semester for faculty and two semesters for undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty would work on establishing a course, whereas the students would participate in research with specific methods/technologies. Some of these trainings could result in issuing a certificate. Internet-based training of physicians and technicians in the provinces may be performed in some cases either on-line (e.g., real-time teaching and testing), or off-line (e.g., delivery of course material for study at the student’s convenience). If travel is difficult or inconvenient, it is possible to use Internet-based conferencing to bring together groups of people to educate and to build professionalism. Clearly, implementation depends on the availability of moderately high-speed access to the Internet.


-         Develop regional characteristics: As each region has its own needs and characteristics it is recommended that each develop its own specialty. The final selection of the focal areas of investigation further depends upon availability of local resources and relationships (e.g. hospitals, interested physicians and health professionals, related research institutes, nearby biomedical engineering enterprises, etc.). Decisions also depend strongly upon the interests and abilities of departmental faculty and research staff. Areas of activity that hold high probability of receiving external and/or internal funding are also useful to the overall research enterprise.


-         Initiate concrete collaborations: Based on the insights gained during its visit to Vietnam, this U.S. delegation foresees the potential for establishing substantial collaborations between selected U.S. universities and three universities in Vietnam: Hanoi University of Technology, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Can Tho University, and recommends concrete steps to be taken to help Vietnam improve its biomedical engineering training, education and research infrastructure. The joint effort in biomedical engineering education and research would benefit the growth of this important high technology field in Vietnam as well as improve and further extend the interactions between the two countries. This objective will likely be met through a number of programmatic concepts including the exchange of visiting faculty, enabling student education and training in the U.S. (from undergraduate to postdoctoral levels), and joint research projects. The funding for these plans may include a variety of sources including the governments, universities and companies from both countries.

In order to develop formal plans for collaboration in the general area of biomedical engineering education and research between the U.S. and Vietnam, Tufts University proposes to initiate a consortium of American universities that wish to share this objective. Tufts University will provide the interface for those collaborative efforts and work jointly towards a detailed program and plans for its implementation.

To institute an example, Tufts University will establish with the three aforementioned Vietnamese universities a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to outline a general framework for future interactions and thereby pave the way for long-term collaboration.


The following is a proposed five-year Implementation Plan for biomedical engineering collaborations between the U.S. and Vietnam.



Short Term (1 year)


·        One week intensive workshop, held in Vietnam on Biomedical Engineering – covering both educational programs and research programs, held in one location and invite all faculty from key schools to attend – should leave with workbooks (we prepare), textbooks (hopefully donated by companies), contacts, and implementation plans (see mid term below)

·        Initiate student graduate education in the U.S. in Sept 2004, with a new group of students each year

·        Sign MOUs between Tufts University and Vietnamese universities



Mid-Term (2 to 3 years)


·        Host groups of faculty from key schools to spend a semester and a summer at Tufts or other locations – to participate in the core courses and interact with students – to learn the process, to gather course materials, and to get to know U.S. colleagues for the beginning of long term educational and research collaborations

·        Continue student graduate education in the U.S. each year

·        Initiate research workshops in Vietnam on selected topics of high relevance to the country

·        Formalize virtual Department arrangement

·        Establish consortium of American and Vietnamese universities

·        Establish a committee to edit a Vietnamese-English dictionary in Biomedical Engineering



Long-Term (3 to 5 years)


·        Continue faculty exchanges

·        Host joint workshops

·        Continue graduate student education in the U.S. each year

·        Mature joint research programs between Vietnam and U.S.





VI.                       Miscellaneous



The U.S. delegation donated a number of Biomedical Engineering books to Hanoi University of Technology, HCMC University of Technology and Can Tho University. During its stay in Vietnam, the U.S. delegation also met with the following people:


-         Mr. Kien Pham, Executive Director of the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), Washington DC, in Hanoi on Jan 4th, 2004. The discussion focused on the mission and the supports of the VEF

-         Dr. Marie Haring Sweeney, Health Attaché and Mr. Gary Sigmon, First Secretary of Science, Technology and Environment on Jan 5th, 2004. Both are from the U.S Embassy in Hanoi. Dr. Sweeney gave advice and support regarding the delivery of U.S. entrance visas to Vietnamese students and scholars.

-         Professor Hoang Van Phong, Minister of Science and Technology of Vietnam, in Hanoi, on Jan 7th, 2004. The Minister showed his continued support to the mission of the delegation.

-         Professor Phan Thi Tuoi, Rector of HCMC University of Technology in HCMC on Jan 14th, 2004. Professor Vo Van Toi remitted, on behalf of the U.S. delegation, a Statement of Intent to Collaborate, signed by the delegation members.

-         Mr. Robert Barnnerman, Principal Commercial Officer; Mr. Robert Ogburn, Press and Cultural Attaché Education Programs; Mr. Le Hoang Anh, Commercial Specialist; and Mr. Tran Thai Binh, Educational Advisor, all are with the Consulate General of the U.S. in HCMC, on Jan 14th, 2004. Professor Vo Van Toi gave a debriefing of the mission and the accomplishments of delegation during its visit in Vietnam, and requested these officers to transmit to the U.S. Ambassador, Raymond Burghardt a Statement of Intent to Collaborate, signed by the delegation members.


From the visit, the PI has established a database of the U.S. delegation members and the Vietnamese people involved in Biomedical Engineering that he met. The PI wishes to share and update this database. He also collected a number of related documents. New information or requests should be directed to the PI.


Professor Vo Van Toi

Tufts University

Biomedical Engineering Department

4 Colby Street

Medford, MA 02155, USA

Tel: (617) 627 5191

Fax: (617) 627 3231






VII.                   Acknowledgements



This project was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (INT-0243803 to VVT). We would like to express our thanks to the Vietnamese and American authorities, Hanoi University of Technology, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Can Tho University, and all other institutions and people mentioned in this report for their hospitalities and assistance that made our visit very fruitful and pleasant.