Teaching speech pathology in Vietnam

ACU's Community Engagement Time Release (CETR) Policy has supported an ACU academic to provide a valued teaching contribution towards the first master’s degree majoring in speech pathology in Vietnam.

Dr Marie Atherton, ACU Lecturer in the School of Speech Pathology, has been supporting the development of speech pathology in Vietnam since 2009 through Trinh Foundation Australia (TFA), a not-for-profit organisation collaborating with local Vietnamese organisations to develop the profession.  With the support of TFA, Marie lived in Vietnam between 2010-2012, coordinating their first speech therapy training program and has returned regularly to teach and provide clinical education, under the auspices of TFA.  This year, Marie was appointed a Director of TFA.

There is currently no one in Vietnam qualified to teach speech pathology, so Marie’s contribution is vital in upskilling local academics to teach into this master's degree into the future1.  Last year, Marie accessed ACU’s CETR policy to return to Vietnam to co-teach the subject, ’Qualitative Research Methodology’, to health professionals enrolled in this master’s degree, which is offered at The University of Medicine and Pharmacy (UMP). While she was there, Marie also attended the opening ceremony of the course.

This community engagement experience was rich, both personally and professionally, with Marie reflecting: “The human side of my travel to Vietnam has always been the most valued aspect, and I enjoy remaining in touch with new colleagues and friends".

"I also value the challenges that arise when working in a cross-cultural context…the people help me view things that I might take for granted through a different lens, and often draw into sharp focus my assumptions and biases.”

Marie credits her time in Vietnam with further developing her flexibility, creativity and planning skills to combat limited in-country resources. She also personally reflected on the resilience of the students she met, who balance work, family study and limited resources to remain motivated and engaged.

Marie intends to return to Vietnam when possible to provide further support and, in the meantime, is providing online thesis supervision for two students.

A bachelor program majoring in speech therapy has also commenced in Da Nang, Vietnam. ACU Melbourne Speech Pathology Course Coordinator, Associate Professor Diane Jacobs, taught into this program in 2019, and hopes to return to Vietnam to teach into the master's degree in Ho Chi Minh City. While academic teaching for both speech therapy programs is covered, there is still a need for speech pathology clinicians to provide professional practice education and support for the students in Vietnam.

1 The Master's Program at UMP (Ho Chi Minh City) and Bachelor Program majoring in speech therapy (Da Nang) are financially supported by USAID. MCNV is the in-country NGO, and TFA provides the technical support.

Pictured below: Marie Atherton at the master's degree opening ceremony.

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