A humbling exchange

Professor Ton Tran grew up in Vietnam. As a teenager, his family risked their lives fleeing the country during political unrest, escaping as refugees and settling in Australia. Against all odds, Professor Tran proceeded to learn English, attend school and become one of Australia’s top trauma surgeons. But this story goes far beyond the operating room.  

Professor Ton Tran and patient

Stryker’s work with Professor Tran began shortly after Erin Cramlet, Senior Director, Human Resources, South Pacific, asked how Stryker could help give back while providing employees with an enriching personal growth opportunity. Maurice Ben-Mayor, President, South Pacific, suggested that Erin contact Professor Tran for further guidance.

Having a heart for his home country, Professor Tran was just starting his work in Vietnam, providing training for orthopaedic surgeons at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City and self-funding the efforts. Occasionally, he would bring Vietnamese surgeons back to Australia for training – similar to a sabbatical. His vision was to help Vietnamese surgeons advance their capacity to deliver care within the constraints of the local healthcare environment.

So, Erin asked, How can Stryker help?”

At first, we provided logistical support to deliver modern training courses – an eye-opening experience for the clinical staff involved. To include non-clinical staff, the program expanded to incorporate humanitarian assistance work and the Thi Nghe Orphanage was brought on board.

The Vietnam exCHANGE program was then formally launched and opened to all Stryker team members.

The Thi Nghe Orphanage is a unique facility that cares for over 400 children with disabilities, many of whom are unable to walk, and the children have limited access to resources and medical care.

The orphanage is a caring home to its occupants - one that Stryker employees were welcomed into with open arms. From the initial visit onward, the Stryker team has cared for the children, purchased equipment and supplies, assisted with cooking and helped the caregivers in any way possible. 

Beth, a Stryker volunteer, shares a tender moment with one of the children at Thi Nghe Orphanage

“This experience teaches you adaptability,” 
said one Stryker volunteer. “We’re not here to lead. We’re here to serve.”

The Vietnam exCHANGE program has evolved further over time. It has been identified that children often end up in the orphanage due to their disabilities and that early interventions, both operative and non-operative, could prevent that from happening and make significant changes to children’s lives.

So today, the exCHANGE program has a greater focus on helping children sooner. The program now supports the establishment and ongoing operation of the House of Ket Noi Yeu Thuong in Ho Chi Minh City. The facility offers a supportive environment for children and their families to stay when undergoing medical assessment and intervention by the visiting orthopaedic team from Australia (under the Australian Orthopaedic Association Outreach program).

By participating in this program, we see what we can achieve when healthcare and humanity are combined.

There has always been a powerful exchange of perspectives, knowledge and gratitude. And the journey so far has been extremely humbling.


Stryker volunteer, Wes, entertains the children at Thi Nghe Orphanage

In the kitchen at the Thi Nghe Orphanage with Stryker volunteers Simone, Sutharat, Beth, Steve and Fin