People to People Ambassador Program Takes Southeast Professor to Vietnam

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Dec. 5, 2003 – The People-to-People Ambassador Program recently took a Southeast Missouri State University professor to Vietnam, where he served as a member of a sports medicine delegation.

Dr. Mark Langenfeld, professor of health, human performance and recreation, and biology, took part in the professional and cultural exchange Nov. 7-16. Among the 10-member delegation were three college professors and four physicians.

He says he returned with “an appreciation of what we have here in the way of advanced medical care and how different things can be there.”

In Hanoi, Langenfeld visited a rehabilitation center affiliated with Hanoi’s largest hospital, the Vietnam Sports Science Institute, a traditional medical school and the Temple of Literature, a University founded in 1070.  He said that unsanitary conditions, unairconditioned buildings and dated facilities were common threads among the places they visited.  Infection rates from surgery are higher than experienced in the United States, owing partly to operating rooms not being air conditioned, he said.

The group also learned sports medicine is in its infancy there.

“Since the Soviet era, people pay for their own medical care, so specialized care is not commonly available,” he said. “It would be desirable to develop care for sports and activity related injuries to be integrated through all medical care delivery.”

In Ho Chi Minh City, the delegation visited the Center for Traumatology and the Teacher’s College for Physical Education.

“The opportunity to see facilities firsthand broadens the perspective of what’s going on,” Langenfeld said, adding that in one location, American physicians in his group read x-rays and collaborated with patient evaluations.

Langenfeld said sports are not as common in Vietnam as in the United States.

“But soccer clubs and school teams generate injuries, and people need treatment,” he said. “The population is highly active. Hundreds of people are doing activities in the parks beginning in the pre-dawn hours.”

He added that Hanoi is currently hosting the Southeast Asia Games, consisting of 32 different sports.

The People-to-People Ambassador Program provides foreign educational travel experiences for professionals. Through meetings, seminars and cultural activities, participants connect with people in similar professions overseas. The programs join common interests in uncommon places through journeys that enrich the world, one person at a time.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, pioneered People-to-People as a means of fostering international understanding. Eisenhower believed that ordinary citizens of different nations, if able to communicate directly, would solve their differences and find a way to live in peace. He believed that if people could visit each others’ homes, attend their schools, and see their places of worship, then the misunderstandings, misperceptions, and resulting suspicionsᾰwhich were making war a viable optionᾰwould disappear. He wanted people to know and understand that while people are all very different, their values, goals and day-to-day issues are very similar.

“I’m impressed with what their goal is,” Langenfeld said of People-to-People. “I’m also intrigued with the prospect of being a delegation leader in the future.”

Langenfeld said he also was impressed with the outlook of Vietnamese residents.

“Sixty percent of the population is under the age of 25,” he said, adding they did not witness the American involvement in Vietnam. “It’s a very young country. The outlook of the Vietnamese is very much toward the future. I’m optimistic for them.”

As a result of the delegation’s visit, members plan to send American textbooks to Vietnam and may return to present a mini-course focusing on sports medicine. Langenfeld said he also plans to make a presentation on his experience at an upcoming meeting of the Regional American College of Sports Medicine and at the Travel Abroad series offered on the Southeast campus.