Mater neurologist Dr Sasha Dionisio recently travelled to Vietnam with the Asian Epilepsy Academy (ASEPA) to help teach local specialists about practical techniques for epilepsy management.
Dr Dionisio was one of eight specialists who gave lectures as a guest of the International League Against Epilepsy.
Around 80 neurologists came from across the country to attend small group sessions and lectures which were really focused on helping to apply contemporary techniques in the local context.
“We really had to focus on issues at hand and in a context where there is really no resource for epilepsy surgery, that meant mainly dealing with epilepsy in pregnancy and medical emergencies in epilepsy,” Dr Dionisio said.
“They have very limited resources and medications, so it was a real eye-opener for all of us.”
Working with the local doctors to understand the clinical environment and patient load, which Dr Dionisio describes as ‘intense’, gave the international delegation a useful and compelling insight.
Dr Dionisio and his colleagues were able to come up with plans to address relevant epilepsy scenarios and presentations which are more common in Vietnam, and which could be addressed with current resources.
“The healthcare system in Vietnam is quite basic, so when patients present with epilepsy the key is really to ensure that local specialists are administering the appropriate drugs at the right time,” he said.
“While local doctors have been doing their best within the limitations of the system, they were unaware of how to best use some of their resources. So, it was really great to be able to provide some immediately practicable advice about management of Status Epilepticus for example.”
“We explained that these patients really need to be treated within five minutes and outlined the reasons why. We talked about giving drugs through a nasal gastric tube and the use of other non-epileptic drugs like magnesium sulphate and really just helped to provide a practical approach.”
“The sharing of information and collegial approach was ultimately practice changing and will have profound effects on the Vietnamese patients. The local doctors were very grateful and we were really excited to be able to share so many ‘lightbulb moments’ like that,” he said.
Along with leading specialists from Japan and Malaysia, Australian doctors are invited to teach in poorer regions of South East Asia each year, and Dr Dionisio was honoured to be selected as part of the contingent to visit Vietnam.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience professionally and personally, and a very strong reminder about why we choose to practice medicine in the first place; to help people,” Dr Dionisio said.
“I’ve not done anything quite like it before, and I made it clear to the team that I would gladly do it again any time they need me.”