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Wednesday, 15 May, 2019

Project DOVE, a community project led by Duke-NUS students, sustains into its 10th successful year

Duke-NUS students have worked closely with local and international partners over the years to ensure the sustainability of Project DOVE, commemorating a decade of impacting underprivileged communities.


Singapore, 15 May 2019 – Project DOVE, short for Duke-NUS Overseas Volunteering Expedition, is a student-led overseas medical mission that has been reaching out to neighbouring countries since 2010. This is the second year that Project DOVE has partnered with Project Vietnam Foundation to reach out to the underserved in Quang Tri province, Vietnam.

The team, which is made up of 18 medical students and guided by 6 faculty members, successfully embarked on the trip from 6 to 12 April 2019. Over four days of medical clinics and a day of health education, the team served 1,010 beneficiaries from 20 different villages. Having six faculty on board for the trip this year also provided sufficient faculty supervision, while also reaching out to a greater number of patients.

Over four days, the team from Project DOVE visited two health communes, which are medical centres for villagers, and usually run by a doctor and a number of healthcare assistants, in Hướng Lộc and Hướng Sơn. They are part of the Hướng Hóa district, a rugged and mountainous rural district in Quang Tri province that was severely affected during the Vietnam War. Each day, the team served an average of 252 villagers, ranging from young children to elderly adults.

During the trip, the team also saw approximately 171 preschoolers, and through interactive games and activities, taught the students about the importance of personal hygiene, with an emphasis on tooth-brushing and hand-hygiene.

Sustainability and having a longer term impact on the community is always a key consideration for overseas mission trips. Working towards this, the team from Project DOVE 2019 raised funds to make a greater contribution through sponsoring the building of a toilet in Hướng Linh preschool. Another non-governmental organisation had previously built a water tank at the area, which would now be supplemented by the toilet built by Project DOVE, along with health education on proper handwashing. On the trip, every team member was given the opportunity to lay a brick together with the local translators, at the area where the new toilet was to be built, symbolising the collaborative and international partnership between Duke-NUS Medical School and the Vietnamese teams.

Said third-year medical student at Duke-NUS, Tracy Koh “Overseas volunteering has been under scrutiny for many reasons, one of them is lack of sustainability. Being part of Project DOVE 2019, I witnessed the relentless effort to make the project a sustainable one. Sustainability comes in many forms, from being financially able to support our expenses through multiple fund-raising events pre-trip to forging deeply-seated relationship with our local partner in Vietnam.”

Reflecting on her trip, first-year student at Duke-NUS, Cheryl Lim said, “Although the trip was a short 4-day clinic experience, I realized the healing power of empathy and reassurance when it comes to patient care. Many of the impoverished villagers we saw had problems we could not fully treat on the spot and I often felt powerless to affect positive changes in their lives. Even then, I realised taking time to advise them properly on what they can do next and follow up with the local doctors gave them some comfort and reassurance. Reiterating what their local doctors have told them could also help to restore some confidence in the local healthcare system. By the simple act of listening to their heart and lungs, many villagers felt very reassured and comforted to know that they are fine, that their children are well and healthy. It reinforces again the importance of our role as comforters as the basis for our care as future doctors.”

About Duke-NUS Medical School

Duke-NUS is a partnership between Duke University School of Medicine and the National University of Singapore (NUS).

In 2005, with support from the Singapore government, NUS and Duke University, two academic institutions with strong track records in research and education, committed to combine the unique medical education curriculum at Duke University School of Medicine with the academic rigour and rich resources offered by NUS, and to offer students an enriching and innovative medical educational experience.

Duke-NUS is located on the main campus of the largest healthcare group in the country, Singapore Health Services (SingHealth). This group collectively delivers multi-disciplinary care among 42 clinical specialties across a large network of hospitals, national specialty centres and polyclinics. Together, Duke-NUS and SingHealth constitute a leading, world class Academic Medical Centre embodying the goal of delivering the highest levels of patient care, education and research.

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Naseema Banu
Duke-NUS Medical School
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