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The first step to leading a healthy lifestyle is learning about your individual health. It’s not enough to simply eat well and exercise: if you come from a family with a history of illness, or live a lifestyle affected by pollution or high-stress situations, you might still be at risk. Your susceptibility to diseases increases as you age, and that’s why the American Cancer Society recommends annual check-ups once you turn 40. If you’re younger, it’s best to get checked every three years. And if you suspect something might be wrong? It’s best to get diagnosed as soon as possible!

Once you make the decision to get checked, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll be well taken care of in Ho Chi Minh City. Since 1998, the Medical Diag Center, a fully foreign-owned enterprise, has provided an international level of care and service to individuals and companies in Vietnam, and they’re not stopping anytime soon. Simply put, if you need a checkup, this is the place to go.

What Do They Do?

The Medical Diag Center doesn’t just do general check-ups—these are the people to go to for nine different specialities: laboratory diagnostics, imaging, internal medicine, external medicine, ophthalmology, dermatology, gynecology and obstetrics, ENT and dental care. In three locations across Ho Chi Minh City, the Medical Diag Center can pinpoint and evaluate your health quickly, accurately and efficiently.


This level of professionalism is apparent from the moment you walk into the door until the moment you receive your lab results. International standards are applied across the board. Case in point: the Vacutainer. Rarely used in Vietnam due to the higher cost, this blood drawing system delivers blood directly into the collection tubes, so it’s never exposed to air.


Since the Vacutainer system draws the correct amount of blood automatically, it’s far less painful than using a syringe. This is just one of the ways the Medical Diag Center has made efforts to bring an international level of care and management to Vietnam.


Fast, Dedicated and Accurate

Once the blood is drawn, it has to be sent to a laboratory for testing, and at the Medical Diag Center, blood and urine samples can be tested for anything under the sun, much of it done in the in-house lab.


Two floors of its newest clinic in District 10 are devoted to laboratory testing, and the extensive list of possible evaluations goes on: cancer screenings, diabetes testings, STD checks and cholesterol surveys…


All done on machines ordered from the top medical manufacturing countries, including Switzerland, Japan, Germany and Korea, with a turnaround time of just a few hours for some general blood tests. All you need to learn about your health can be done with a yearly check-up in the one place.


This level of service doesn’t appear on its own: it requires a high level of international standards regimented each day. And that’s where the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) comes in.


An independent, non-governmental institution, ISO gives world-class specifications for products, services and systems to ensure that all members of the organisation observe quality, safety and efficiency.


In 2015, the Medical Diag Center obtained ISO’s certification (ISO 15189:2012) for its medical laboratories, a certificate reinforced with monthly external inspections. But that doesn’t mean the services will break your bank.


International Services at a Low Price

For many international-level clinics in Ho Chi Minh City, top-level care often equates to high-shelf prices. Thankfully, this isn’t the case for the Medical Diag Center, which has kept prices low since it opened in 1998. After shopping prices between other clinics and the Medical Diag Center, chances are you’ll be amazed at the difference.


By running tests in-house rather than sending them to other diagnostic clinics, this company has the knowledge and technology to do everything you need without a middleman—and it’s to your benefit. With a new clinic recently opened earlier this year to accommodate even more patients, the Medical Diag Center now has three locations to help you learn more about your health.

Location 1: 231 Hoàng Văn Thụ, Phường 8, Phú Nhuận, HCMC, Vietnam+84 28 3838 1551 / 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Location 2: 414-420 Cao Thang, D10, HCMC, Vietnam+84 28 3979 8181 / 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Location 3: 742 Lũy Bán Bích, Tân Thành, Tân Phú District, HCMc, Vietnam, Vietnam / +84 1900 1717 / 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. adv



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What if I told you you’re neglecting a factor influencing 30 percent of your overall health? We all know how existing medicine works: you get sick, then you see the doctor. She treats your illness and life goes on. Maybe you live a healthy lifestyle, maybe you don’t. In this framework, you know that yearly check-ups, testing for bad stuff, etc.,is necessary to find out about disease at an early stage. It’s still all about disease rather than you.It’s passive rather than you taking control of your own health.


That old clinic with its doc-in-the-box is transforming into a wellness center, working with you in your real, daily life to help you be healthier and happier. Clinics, such as Victoria Healthcare, may soon be the place where you positively pursue good health, not just stave off disease. It’s still not common in Vietnam, but Victoria Healthcare is at the forefront of a medical trend taking shape in most of the developed countries. But the first waves of this tide have already hit our beautiful beaches.


The doctors at Victoria Healthcare are bringing about this change to a culture of being your partner in wellness. By understanding that disease is a departure from wellness as medicine has done traditionally, they capably identify and treat illnesses. The more you and your doctor knows about your health, the better you can manage yourself.


Not Just Lifestyle

What determines a person’s health? It turns out, several things do—your lifestyle only contributes about 40 percent to your overall health. Environmental factors make up 20 percent. The quality of healthcare provides another 10 percent. But one’s genetic inheritance plays a big role in your health, even with a healthy lifestyle. However, the remaining 30 percent is based on your genetic makeup.


Your genes, the DNA you inherit from your parents, literally determines who you are. Although all humans share 99.9 percent of the same genes, that sticky little 0.1 percent may make all the difference. It determines much of the individual you, like your hair and eye colour, your height, and even your disposition. It also determines if you have genetic mutations that may pre-program you to develop chronic diseases or even early death.


Certain common diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease aren’t brought on simply by lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking and a poor diet although they contribute. They are also hereditary, passed down through your family. Thus, based on your genetic makeup, you may run a high risk of contracting hereditary illnesses.


Team-Based Healthcare

And this is where Victoria Healthcare steps in. When you’re getting a check-up and additional testing they offer can potentially reveal that your family history contains breast cancer or early deaths from heart attacks, for example. Chances are, you may be carrying a mutated gene that gives you a higher risk. What’s more, you might pass down that mutated gene to your own children.


With a simple blood test, the team at Victoria Healthcare can now analyse your DNA through an advanced lab in Hong Kong. After a few weeks, your genetic roadmap is revealed. Based on this information, your doctors and a geneticist as well as a nutritionist, will develop a game plan that involves behavioural and lifestyle management individually designed to keep you as healthy as possible throughout your life.


Genetic sequencing can’t tell you when you’ll get sick in the future with 100 percent certainty, but it can tell you is how to manage your lifestyle to maximize your wellness. It may be changes in your diet, exercise, medication, or special testing at your annual check-ups. So a big part of wellness is predictive healthcare, and Victoria Healthcare is embracing and advocating this. Learning early about your own individual health risks and what you may pass on to your children could be the difference between life and death.




Little Dang was born in 2016 to a young couple of the Stieng ethnic minority living in Binh Phuoc. As soon as he was born, doctors knew something was wrong; soon after, Dang was diagnosed with a common arterial trunk, a rare and fatal congenital heart malformation.

Out of pocket, Dang’s operation would cost US$11,120—far more money than his two farmer parents could afford to pay. With the help of the Heart to Heart fund, health insurance and the Alain Carpentier foundation, the surgeons at the Heart Institute were able to perform the operation, saving Dang’s life. Dang’s story is one of thousands in Vietnam.

Reports from the Cardiovascular Department of the HCMC Pediatrics Hospital show that around 9,200 infants are born every year in Vietnam with a form a heart disease, and more than 3,000 of these are classified as life-threatening. With life-saving operations costing upwards of US$2,000, these conditions change the lives not only of the afflicted child, but the child’s family as well.

Identifying the Need

The alarming amount of life-threatening cases of heart disease impacting the lives of children across the nation was something that famed heart surgeon Alain Carpentier recognised immediately when he visited Vietnam in 1987, and so the Heart Institute was born. Officially opened in 1992 by Professor Carpentier and Dr. Duong Quang Trung, it was never just about saving lives—they wanted to build a foundation for a better future.

An essential part of the plan was also to train Vietnamese cardiatric surgeons. Twelve Vietnamese doctors were hand-picked by Professor Carpentier and sent to France to train at the Hospital Broussais in Paris. When they came back to Vietnam, they hit the ground running. Since 1992, surgeons at the Heart Institute have operated on 22,500 hearts, giving preference to children with severe cases.

Help From All Directions

Often, the surgery itself is the easy part. It’s finding the funding that’s more difficult. As Mayte Pernas, the Senior Operations Manager at the Centre Medical International (CMI), said, “The rate of these diseases is still the same over the years, and the only thing that has changed is that people now have more income to pay for the operations.” While this might be true in the country’s larger cities, there’s still no end to poverty in Vietnam’s rural countryside.

The median price for heart surgery is around US$2,000, and for many households in Vietnam, this is an annual salary several times over. However, just as pressing: “If you don’t operate on them, they die.”

While a family of farmers might not have the money to pay for the operation, when a baby is born with a heart issue, time is of the essence. To grow up with a normal life, children must undergo surgery two to four weeks after birth.

To help fund the Heart Institute, CMI, a comprehensive medical clinic serving the general public in Ho Chi Minh City, was created with the chief aim of helping fund the operations at the Heart Institute. If you go to CMI for a checkup or even the most ordinary medical treatment, the profits from your bill are sent straight to the Heart Institute, where they will help save the life of a child in need.

The financial help from CMI, in connection with the Alain Carpentier Fund and a specially created social department, has created a unique system designed to give help to as many children as possible. Some 4,300 children have been saved so far across the country—around 200 children a year.

Providing top-tier medical treatment to some of the world’s most underprivileged civilians never gets easier, but thanks to Alain Carpentier’s world-class team, each year has seen a little more improvement. In 2017, for example, Pernas describes the Institute’s latest acquisitions: two high-tech operating tables designed specifically for children’s bodies. Completely remote controlled, these tables shift to allow surgeons to work at beneficial angles, resulting in even greater success and ease. As the Heart Institute grows, so the rate of infant deaths drops in Vietnam.


Ho Chi Minh City’s Pediatric Association announced that 10 years ago the rate of heart disease-related infant death was between 10 and 30 percent, while today it has dropped to one to two percent. Even so, the need for intervention has stayed the same. And this is at the heart of the Heart Institute. adv


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It is often said that great things start from unexpected beginnings. Victoria Healthcare International Clinics are surely proof of this. For Dr. Mason Cobb, one of Victoria’s founders, the oak is everywhere he looks. “I started in Vietnam with Dr. Tuong 20 years ago. Our project was revolutionary for the time and Saigon was just opening its eager eyes to a bigger world. Now when I look out the window in Vietnam and I see all the highrises and palm trees, I know how far from home I really am,” he reminisced.

For Dr. Cobb, home was a small farm in rural Michigan – certainly a long way from the busy streets of Saigon. Victoria Healthcare’s co-founder, Dr. Nguyen Vinh Tuong, has a different upbringing. Raised in Saigon, he came from a family of doctors and nurses; it made sense for him to carry on in this tradition.

He remembers his early days of selling medicine directly to doctors, before pharmacies were established and regulated. Once he began studying at the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University, he could tell his professor the price per dosage of everything on the market. “They were stunned. They didn’t know how I knew that!” he laughed.

The paths of these two doctors crossed in 1997 when Dr. Cobb came to Vietnam to help set up the Columbia-Gia Dinh Clinic Joint Venture, Saigon’s first post-war international health clinic. Dr. Tuong worked hard for the licence to the Columbia clinic and together with Dr. Cobb got the project up and running.

Their current partnership was born a few years later. Dr. Cobb had gone back to pediatric surgery in Washington, while Dr. Tuong continued to pursue his interests in gastroenterology at the National University Hospital in Singapore and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. While in the US, Dr. Tuong visited his friend in the Pacific Northwest and together they were excited to open another clinic in Vietnam together – this time on their own terms.

A Working Philosophy

For Dr. Cobb, high-quality healthcare is a layered concept. The first layer? Safety. “We want to make sure, of course, that nobody gets hurt or sicker while receiving care,” he said, listing the international levels of sterility and cleanliness that are practised at all four clinics, the newest one having just opened in late April of this year.


The second layer is “doing the best thing for the patient, even if it’s not the best business decision: ‘Patients First’ – even before business.” While this flies in the face of the daily ledger, it’s a hit that the doctors are willing to take. Rather than run tests that cost a lot but prove little, Dr. Cobb and Tuong have worked to help people medically, not hurt them financially. This mission is embedded in every Victoria doctor as a basic ethical responsibility.


The last layer, while the most important, is also characteristically unconventional: “Respect. We respect the patient.” Respect is crucial to their healing philosophy, which is centred around preventative medicine. Rather than wait for an illness to bring a patient to their doors, Victoria strives to educate their patients on how to live well and be healthy. “This might not be good in a business sense,” Dr. Cobb joked, “but if they’re healthy, they’ll stick around longer.”


Continuing Education

To make sure all doctors and nurses stay current on medical research and technology, Dr. Tuong and Dr. Cobb have implemented weekly training courses. For nurses, this means the Continuing Nurse Education (CNE), a programme that tests medical knowledge and industry trends.


For doctors, there’s the Continuing Medical Education (CME), which is conducted in English. Each physician must deeply research a topic in their specialty and present it to the rest of the medical staff. The question-and-answer sessions are robust and highly interactive.


Technology is also harnessed to facilitate lively clinical discussions amongst doctors across all four care sites. This zest for learning is infectious, and the founders proudly report that every member of staff enthusiastically wants to be part of the team as well as the best that they can be.


Continued Engagement

It’s clear that Dr. Cobb and Dr. Tuong have found a recipe for success. However, Dr. Tuong doesn’t want to grow too quickly. “We open clinics very strategically,” he says. “We really want to make sure we’re providing exactly what the customers want and need in exactly the right place. After a few years, if the clinic does well, we open another one, always incorporating lessons learned.”


Victoria Healthcare’s just celebrated the grand opening of its newest clinic. This nine-storey palace of health on Dinh Tien Hoang in District 1 is a sight to behold. Features include two floors devoted entirely to pediatrics, a 128-slice CT scanner and an outpatient minor surgical ward. I asked what they could expand in the future. Dr. Tuong smiled. “Maybe a hospital in two or three years.” That would be the oak forest.

Clinic 1: 135A Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC, Vietnam

Clinic 2: Broadway D, 152 Nguyen Luong Bang, D7, HCMC, Vietnam

Clinic 3: 20-20Bis -22 Dinh Tien Hoang, D1, HCMC, Vietnam

Clinic 4: 37-39 Lương Định Của, P. Bình An, Thu Duc City, Vietnam / +84 28 3910 adv


An increasing number of people are patronising beauty clinics in Vietnam for cosmetic surgery over the last few years. Local media has reported a boom in the number of beauty clinics and a new generation of body-conscious and wealthy people who turn to these clinics for help. About a decade ago, South Korea emerged as the top destination for beauty-obsessed Vietnamese, followed by Thailand.

But things changed dramatically when a large number of beauty clinics were set up in Vietnam several years ago. They sent their practitioners to South Korea for training and technology transfer, and started luring customers by marketing the qualifications of these doctors. As a result, more Vietnamese people have started flocking to local clinics to alter their appearance.

With an improvement in the quality and skills of local cosmetic surgeons, the popularity of these clinics has been increasing. Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) and customers from other Southeast Asian countries have also started coming to Vietnam for simple procedures such as nose jobs, liposuction and filler treatments.

Cheap destination

According to VnExpress, Vietnam was crowned earlier this year as the world’s cheapest place for cosmetic surgery in the 2017 Beauty Price Index released by Latin American e-commerce platform Linio. The index was compiled based on average retail costs (including tax) of 16 different services, cosmetic procedures and products in the beauty industry across 50 countries.


The report said a nose job for under US$1,000 and a US$2,000 breast augmentation have made Vietnam become the world’s most affordable destination for beauty services. Meanwhile, a makeover in Switzerland and the U.S. could cost you a fortune. Vietnam clinched the most-affordable spot in the gauge even as retail prices rose from 2016. India, South Africa, Thailand and Egypt rounded out the top five cheapest cosmetic enhancement destinations.


Risky business

Cosmetic surgery in Vietnam may be cheaper than other countries, but there are also risks involved. There have been several fatal incidents involving cosmetic surgeries, with the most high-profile case involving a doctor who dumped the body of a patient into a river following a botched operation four years ago.

The 37-year-old woman died of anaphylactic shock in October 2013 after undergoing liposuction and a breast augmentation operation at the private Cat Tuong Clinic in Hanoi, despite efforts by the centre’s staff to revive her. Nguyen Manh Tuong, the surgeon, dumped her body in the river with the help of a clinic security guard. One year later, he was sentenced to 19 years in jail.

Tuong worked at the well-respected state-run Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi and also ran the Cat Tuong Clinic. The clinic had a business license but lacked a permit to carry out cosmetic surgery. It has since been shut down. A more recent case involved an American man who reportedly suffered cardiac arrest during a cosmetic procedure at Viet Thanh Beauty Clinic in Ho Chi Minh City on July 19.

Edward Hartley, 53, was at the clinic on Su Van Hanh Street in District 10 to have some loose skin removed from around his hip. Fifteen minutes after being sedated, he had an alleged heart attack caused by anaphylactic shock. The surgeon tried to resuscitate the man and called doctors at Trung Vuong Hospital for help, but they were unable to save him and Hartley died 20 minutes later.

Inspectors then found that the clinic was not licensed to perform skin removal. Vietnam’s health sector has been plagued with regulation issues and this is also evident with some doctors at state-run hospitals moonlighting by running unlicensed private clinics or by offering treatment from their homes.