Series of theme Facing Death – Part 2: Doctor Nguyen Quang Dai: Medical skill is the major ethics of the doctor

In 6 years of taking the position as Head of ENT Development at FV Hospital, Dr. Nguyen Quang Dai has treated hundreds of extremely difficult cases of head and neck cancer. He is the master in ear, ear- neurology and skull tumor surgery. This is the remarkable achievement of the 45-year-old doctor who is very witty, but behind his smile is the kind heart, anxiety and passion for his patients.

Welcoming us after a busy morning work, Dr. Nguyen Quang Dai still has a very fresh smile on his lips. With his joyfully sparkling eyes, he boasted:

Ms. Nga in Ben Tre was here last week. She looked very healthy. After 5 years, I am finally relieved.

Ms. Nga who was mentioned is the case that caused a “shock” in the medical community in 2012. At that time, the press noisily delivered news about the very first case, considered as the classic one in Vietnam, being performed by Dr. Nguyen Quang Dai at FV Hospital: Patient with terminal tongue cancer, treated with the method by which the tongue is fully removed and  rebuilt by the tissue taken from her thigh.

“She’d have died if I didn’t do it”

Being asked about Ms. Nga’s case: “Her condition is very serious, why did you decide to treat and believe that you can save the patient?”, Dr. Dai said:

It was very serious at that time, but if I did not do it, she’d have died because it had been only one month left for her. I thought if someone has succeeded in doing that surgeon, then I could also do.

Being in constant thought of that “Without the surgery, the patient will die”, Dr. Dai had researched and read various  medical documents about similar cases. Finally, he found the information he needed: Gustave Roussy Institute in France, one of the two leading European cancer institutes, had performed the tongue surgery and had been successful in rebuilding the tongue. However, by then the number of such performed cases was only over 20.

Having hope appearing with the strong determination to cure the patient, he worked hard to research and thoroughly studied the successful cases, to present and consult with his colleagues in Hy Vong cancer center at FV Hospital. When the treatment regimen was in mutual agreement, there happened another difficulty which he had to face to: the patient hesitated because she was afraid of that the treatment method would cut off her tongue.

Dr. Dai laughed when remembering of that situation, “if I were in the position, I would also have been very scared of being given the proposal of … cutting the tongue off.” According to the psychology of a patient, it is very normal. So, although being anxious to the treatment, he respected her decision, too: “I can only treat if they agreed, it’s unwisely to force them to get done.” Little by little, he patiently explained to convince the patient to accept her last chance.

Two days later, the patient returned and agreed to get the surgery. He was both happy and worried because it’s beginning the time patient has given her life to him. Then, like a talent orchestra conductor, he skillfully guided two teams to perform exactly the surgical operations which consist of removing the entire tongue from the end to the stalk which is kept back, removing all the nodes, get the skin and nerves of the outer surface of the thighs to roll up rebuilding a new tongue for the patient. During nearly 12 hours of intense stress and concentration, the operation was successful exceeding his expectation.

“The better the medical skill, the higher of medical ethic”

Dr. Dai has been known well as the man behind difficult operations, but many colleagues also respect him by the experience and the ability to learn constantly. He is the first and the only Vietnamese to receive the FISCH Scholarship (The Fisch International Microsurgery Foundation) in Switzerland granted by Prof. Ugo Fisch, Master in ear and skull base surgery. In addition, Dr. Dai also attended advanced training courses in England, Austria, Switzerland, Canada … Explaining his tireless efforts, he said, he very value the skills and experience of medical. For him, “Medical skill is the ethics of the doctor.” The more advanced a doctor is, the more likely his patients to be cured, reducing the number of complications and risks might be happened during the treatment.

18 years of practice medicine career is also a journey of his non-stop learning. Asking about the greatest teacher who taught him the most valuable lessons, his answer is quite unexpected: “The patients”. In their eyes, he was the one who brought them back from the death. Someone said “thank you”, someone sent him their hometown gifts which made him feel very touched. To him, they were not the patients but the teachers, the ones he thanked for giving him the chance to cure, to practice what he had learned and to gain experiences for other medical cases.

Between life and death, patient living quality comes first

For our question that “Are you afraid of being the one who always treats the difficult cases, who have faced the line of life and death quite many times?”, Dr. Dai did not hesitate to admit his concern:

I am afraid the patient would die, afraid to leave aftereffects because of the dangerous surgeries. I need to consider the thorough and safe treatment for the patient, and always put their safety first, that means to concern how they got to live happily after the surgery.

The doctor, besides saving lives, also have to concern about the safety and living quality of the patient. It’s important to cut off the tongue to treat disease, but to return the patient the food-taste ability and the ability to speak is more important.

He compared his work as a chorister, but he also said that the medical profession is a risky job. The practitioner sometimes has to surpass themselves. “Who would save the patient in the end if I was too protective of my reputation and choose the easy way? After the first case, the second one will be easier. The third, fourth, fifth… all would be in procedures.”

Fortunately, FV Hospital, where he has been working at for 6 years, has full of conditions to support his desires. In 2016, the hospital has achieved international certification JCI in standards of patient safety. The head of the department is responsible for the expertise, plus modern equipment, the process of medication and antibiotics management and use… helps him concentrate on deepening the medical profession.

Now, with the special empathy for the patient and the great medical skills in hand, he enters the operating room with confidence. “Lying on the operating table and seeing the doctor smiles, patients will feel comfortable and completely relieve for worrying.” Dr. Dai concluded.