Dr. Binh Vu: Fusing art and science in medicine
As a general practitioner in Woodstock for 27 years, Dr. Binh Vu considers himself to be an old-school, do-it-all type of physician. Running a comprehensive general practice allows him to do everything from delivering babies to providing palliative care. But his approach can be considered slightly different than most.
Dr. Vu is a firm believer that field of medicine is a mixture of both art and science. “As a doctor, you have to understand the science of human life,” he says. “But when you treat people, you have to really use art to heal them.”
The art, he says, comes in the form of establishing trust, building a positive influence and having a good relationship with his patients in order to achieve a common goal. “This multi-faceted aspect of medicine attracted me to the field,” he said.
But Dr. Vu’s was also drawn to the field through his bloodline. Family influence began with his father, who was trained as a nurse practitioner, then became medical officer in the army in Vietnam with a role to transport the wounded for the south army. As well, his grandfather and great uncles practised Oriental medicine. But entering the field was a journey for Dr. Vu.
When he was studying high school in Vietnam, a war broke out in 1975 where the north took over the south part of Vietnam, and Dr. Vu says his “life really changed.”
“My father was put in prison for a couple of years, and when he was released, we weren’t welcome there. So we escaped on a boat,” he said. “We landed in a refugee camp in Indonesia, and then the United Nations took us in and provided for us.”
Eventually, Vu and his family applied and were accepted into Canada in 1982. Having already completed half of his first year of medical school in Vietnam, upon arriving in Canada, he completed his training at Western University.
“Escaping Vietnam was very difficult; being with 100 people on a small boat for 10 days facing death,” he said. “Then we stayed in a refugee camp in poverty conditions for six months.”
In that time, Dr. Vu says he devoted every minute of his time to learning English so that I would be ready for school in Canada.
“I was helped by many good people around me,” he said. “A lot of people who knew I wanted to realize my dream helped me along the way by encouraging me and helping me in any way that they could.”
Dr. Vu says he owes gratitude to the Government of Canada for accepting his family, to the teachers who supported him along his journey, to the priests at Assumption High School in Windsor who assisted with his tuition, and to Dr. Ross McElroy whom he locumed with in Woodstock prior to setting up his own practice.
“I was a very committed student; I devoted all my life to studying and doing extra reading,” he said. “My goal was to learn everything to the best of my ability and then apply it. I always had that mentality going into medicine.”
While accomplishing his dream involved a difficult journey, Dr. Vu says he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“My love for my job is what drives me,” he said. “Being able to see patients through their life journeys allows me to experience a whole spectrum of life.”
Focusing on the art behind medicine and being just one player in the nation’s broader health-care team is what keeps driving Dr. Vu’s practice.
“We’re all part of this mosaic picture. Every one of us is a tiny piece in that, and we’re all important,” he said. “Each piece is supported by the pieces around it.”
This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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