(On the way to Cuc Phuong)

Once again, two months has slipped by without a single blog update! In an effort to get anything down on ‘paper’, I’ll attempt to provide a brief overview of the last eight weeks.

(In NInh Binh)

For starters, I’m pleased to say that after fourteen months of hard work we finally held our Health Information Systems (HIS) & Technology Regional Workshop: Systems Design, Standards and Interoperability.

(Rice Fields)

This regional workshop was the first of its kind (in Asia), bringing together approximately 200 participants, including 100 Government of Vietnam officials from the Ministry of Health, Hospitals, Universities, and Provinces; plus another 100 representatives from donors, implementing partners, technical experts and representatives from 9 country delegations to discuss challenges, concerns and strategies to strengthen health information systems.

(Chris Bailey – Opening Session)

(Group Photo)

We addressed several important technical and political considerations, including country ownership and leadership strategies, HIS policies, and basic concepts and principles of the enterprise architecture approach.

(Sunset at Ninh Binh)

The workshop also provided a forum for peer-to-peer dialogue to review country case studies and solutions on topics such as electronic medical records, data exchange standards, development of use cases, and unique patient identifiers.

(Red River Excursion)

Finally, the workshop provided a unique opportunity for the Government of Vietnam as well as the nine country delegations to network with technical leaders in the field of Health Information System; to identify strengths and weaknesses of national systems; to work towards a common understanding of the use of standards, enterprise architecture, and interoperability; and to share experiences with neighboring countries.

(Opening Panel)

The Vice Minister of Health chaired the workshop and declared Health Information Systems a priority for the country! With a clear political mandate, we may be able to move this process forward.

hoi an
(Facilitators of HIS Workshop)

Regardless, I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of the meeting. Meanwhile, let’s see what happens next…

(Happy Holi – Color Festival)

(Happy Holi)

The workshop itself was held in Hoi An, my favorite city in all of Vietnam. David was able to meet me for the weekend where we spent our days walking up and down the beach, lulling by the pool, cruising the ancient city streets and dining at the fabulous restaurants.

(David and Amy)

(Our lovely hotel)

Tangentially related to the workshop, my dear friend, Eric, flew to Vietnam specifically to attend the conference. Eric and I have been friends for almost two decades – starting with Peace Corps Jamaica and culminating into a working relationship in Austin, TX.

(Amy and Eric)

(Eric in Hoi An)

For those of you familiar with PMATS – the Program Management and Tracking System for the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention that I helped create as part of my PhD program – Eric was (and still is) the programmer for this health information system. I’m quite proud of the system that we developed and marvel over the fact that it’s still being used eight years after its inception.

(Ladies in the photography club)

(Red River Outing)

In retrospect, I never imagined that PMATS would’ve launched my career into the international HIS arena…funny how one’s professional development evolves. I feel quite fortunate to be working in this field.

(David at Ninh Binh)

(Amy and David @ Ninh Binh)

Days after returning from Hoi An, I flew to Bangkok to attend another training, ‘Stepping Up to Health Team Management” – granted, I’m pleased to say that I was strictly a participant! I now have a profound appreciation for event organizers and facilitators…. it’s a lot of work!

(Traveling via motorbike)

I can honestly say, this was one of the best trainings that I have ever had – so applicable to one’s daily life! If only ALL managers were required to take this class.

(Our PEPFAR Strategic Information Technical Working Group)

(SI Team)

(USAID Co-workers)

We delved into subjects such as one’s personal leadership style and emotional intelligence. We explored challenges associated with leading multi-cultural teams; discussed the importance of situational leadership styles; demonstrated the art of managing up; and examined our conflict-handling modes.

(On the way to Cuc Phuong)

I discovered that my personal leadership style is ‘Enable Others to Act’ or to foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships and strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence;

(Caves in Cuc Phuong)

We discussed at great lengths emotional intelligence and its relation to leadership. For example, ‘leadership is the ability to envision something to be accomplished and to influence and inspire others to pursue it.’ However, to influence and inspire people to do something new or different involves influencing constructive emotions (i.e., trust acceptance, desire) while minimizing unhelpful emotions (i.e., doubt, resistance, complacency, etc.). in fact, studies show that emotional intelligence is twice as important as IQ for success in a workplace setting*(notes from my training).

(Cuc Phuong)

What I found quite interesting about my emotional intelligence, when asked to take an emotional intelligence appraisal prior to our training and to submit the names of co-workers, managers, etc. who could also answer the questionnaire on my behalf, my self-rated score and the score of how others rated me were identical. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad, but I’m assuming that I am highly aware of my emotional behaviors and am quite transparent in the process.

(Hoi An)

Throughout the course of the week, several epiphanies emerged. I understand my natural default modes when conflicts arise (i.e., accommodating); and realize where I need to focus my attention to become a better leader/manager.

(1000 year old tree)

While I was in Bangkok, I met up with an old friend of mine who I had originally met while doing research in the Bolivian altiplano ten years ago! It was wonderful catching up with Carl (who currently lives in Australia but recently accepted a job in Hanoi). It will be great to have him in Vietnam.

(Carl and his friends in Bangkok)

And I was able to meet up with another friend of mine, Chris Raymond, from the University of Kansas who also lives and works in Bangkok! Ironically, I’ve had more reunions with friends in Vietnam than I ever had when living in Austin.

(Heroin is out of control in my neighborhood – this was taken in the park across the street)

Finally, last weekend was the long holiday weekend. As such, David and I rode the motorbike to Cuc Phuong National Park, the oldest park in Vietnam. Located approximately 120 km southwest of Hanoi, I was incredibly impressed by this pristine nature reserve.

(Wrong turn)

Despite the heavy traffic flow and the hoards of tourists, I still managed to find peace in Cuc Phuong’s enchanting scenery, with its magnificent limestone mountains, to the majestic rice terraces, to the magical dense forest.

(Our motley crew)

Throughout our stay, I couldn’t help but think of my Mom and Steve – who not only stayed at Cuc Phuong during their visit to Vietnam, but also recommended this national park to David and me.

(David, Chip and Jane)

(David and Jane)

I found myself searching for birds at every corner, listening to the sounds of nature, and photographing flora and fauna. I couldn’t help but wonder if we shared similar experiences in the park. I miss them dearly and hope they will return again soon.

(Sunset in Cuc Phuong)

(Off Road)

I’m starting to feel a bit homesick. I miss my family and friends, sitting behind the wheel of my Miata, driving down empty streets, and the ease of life in the United States. Unfortunately, I probably won’t have an opportunity to return home until Christmas.


At least I’ve had a steady string of visitors in Hanoi. I have an open door policy if anyone would like to visit!

Sending much love,

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