Nurses—Making a Difference in Global Health

Nurse Stories:  Combat HIV, AIDS, malaria and all communicable/non-communicable diseases

Good Morning, Vietnam!

Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, USA

This is a very special story about a very special nurse who works on Level 12, a Med-Surg Unit at the Virginia Mason Medical Center. Phuc Ly, RN, (known as Lee) is a native of Vietnam who in 1981, fled his homeland without his family and journeyed to the Pacific Northwest aboard a boat. His mother had died two days prior to his leaving. In a very short time Lee became fluent in English and won a Highline High School journalism award in creative writing within two years of his arrival in America. A local couple read the story, felt a tug on their hearts and adopted Lee into their family.

Lee is proud of his story and grateful for his opportunities and successes. He has since felt the need to help others who weren’t so fortunate as he was to have made a new life. Lee pursued nursing as his career, and worked his way through school and has enjoyed the last 20 or so years as a Virginia Mason employee. Lee has become very active in our local community. He always ensures that he takes care of those patients that speak Vietnamese, so that they will feel more comfortable speaking in their native tongue. Lee has also volunteered as a Vietnamese interpreter for the American Red Cross for the past four years.

Then in 2008 and again in 2009, Lee stretched his reach by returning to Vietnam as a medical volunteer member of Interplast (a company which serves third world countries that are unable to provide "cosmetic" surgeries). He went both as a translator and an RN. He was able to assist with surgeries, pre and post-op care, and teaching sessions where the staff at the hospitals how to care for the patients. They performed reconstructive surgeries on children with disfigurements such as cleft lips and palates, eyelid ptosis, burns, "webbed fingers" and other disfigurements.

The experience was extremely rewarding for him, as the patients and their families were so very appreciative, and he really felt that the patients lives would be changed immensely. The nursing care Lee provided there helped bring happiness and joy to many children who had long suffered from their deformities. In March of this year, Lee will travel to Nha Trang Hospital in central Vietnam with IVUmed (a group which mentors urologists to improve general urology, women’s health and tropical disease care worldwide. We salute you, Lee, for your efforts to deliver skillful and compassionate nursing care to those in need on a global basis! Lee was recognized for his efforts in 2009 as the recipient of the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award in Community Service in the Seattle Community

Contact person:

Phuc “Lee” Ly RN
Medical-Surgical, Level 12
Virginia Mason Medical Center