Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Michael Ma,
Leads Humanitarian Mission to Vietnam

by Lynn Nichols
January 25, 2024

Michael Ma, MD, Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon with the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford Medicine, completed his first-ever humanitarian mission as the lead, solo surgeon and co-leader of a prominent North American team. The mission took place near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and included 20 to 25 pediatric specialists from prominent children’s hospitals around North America, with six from Stanford Medicine Children’s Health

The mission, sponsored by MD1 World Organization, had the duo purpose of performing critical operations on children with highly complex heart defects and training the local surgical team in advanced pediatric cardiothoracic techniques - ones that are novel to Stanford Children’s.

Watch the video

Timestamps: Dr. Michael Ma discusses surgical preparation (3:42), his team experience (4:51), and future missions (10:31).

“The Vietnamese hospital is quite large, but their group of heart specialists is small. They were looking to us for advanced techniques and surgical training so they could provide care to patients they currently were incapable of caring for,” says Dr. Ma.

The mission spanned from Sept. 27 to Oct. 11, 2023. During the first week, a screening team taught advanced imaging and diagnostic techniques while evaluating 30-40 children for either an ongoing evaluation, surgery, or interventional cardiac catheterization.

Theresa Tacy, MD, Director of the Echocardiography Laboratory and Fetal Cardiology Program at Stanford Children’s, deciphered which children were appropriate for the mission - focusing on those that demanded the advanced skill set of Dr. Ma but with the equipment, infrastructure, and ability locally to complete the surgery. Over a dozen children received life saving surgeries/procedures.

“We performed unique surgeries that we are known for here at Stanford Children’s. For example, we did single ventricle palliation surgeries, namely Glenn and Fontans. We also evaluated children with congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries (CCTGA) and operated on one with our novel modified double switch surgery - which was maybe the first done in that part of Vietnam,” Dr. Ma says. “We also performed pulmonary artery reconstruction - another Stanford Children’s specialty.”

Dr. Ma co-led the mission with Wyman Lai, Pediatric Cardiologist with Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The multispecialty collaborative team included pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists, critical care intensivists, imaging and echocardiography cardiologists, advanced practice practitioners, nurses from top pediatric heart centers in North America. These included Children’s National, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Toronto Sick Kids, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, UCSF Medical Center, and of course, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.

From Stanford Children’s, participants included Michael Ma, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Theresa Tacy, MD, Cardiologist, Chandra Ramamoorthy, MD, Cardiac Anesthesiologist, Kara Furman, MD, PhD, Anesthesiologist, Eric Hong, Physician Assistant, and Tristan Day, Perfusionist.

The mission was the first of a five-year commitment and will recur every fall, with possibly more missions for education in between. Dr. Ma will also guide Vietnamese cardiothoracic surgeons virtually to help hone their skills. 

“My hope going forward is that we get to the point where we empower a robust local team to do surgeries themselves, making decisions intraoperatively and postoperatively to decide who is a good candidate, what the anticipated pitfalls might be, and how to manage them,” Dr. Ma concludes.

Learn more about MD1World and its aim to grant global medical communities access to marginalized and underserved populations.

Dr. Michael Ma

Photos Credit: MD1World. See additional photos on the MD1World Facebook page.