Photo source: USAID
“I like to visit local communities across Vietnam. When I work with communities on neglected tropical diseases, I meet new people and learn new things - this makes my life more meaningful,“ says Dr. Do Trung Dung, MD, MSc., Head of Parasitology Department, National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology (NIMPE) under Vietnam’s Ministry of Health (MOH).
Dr. Dung has ten years of experience working on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including soil-transmitted helminthes (STH), lymphatic filariasis (LF), foodborne trematode infections and taeniasis/cysticercosis. Since joining NIMPE as a researcher in 2003, he has been involved in a number of research and prevention activities funded by the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, Denmark’s Development Cooperation (DANIDA), the Institute of Tropical Medicine of Belgium, the Asian Development Bank, and USAID.
Between 2003 and 2008, Dr. Dung was responsible for both the research and the rollout of interventions to prevent the transmission of foodborne trematode infections. In 2006, he began to participate in community-based activities to eliminate LF, which included organizing annual mass treatment (MDA) for more than 425,000 individuals in six provinces. From 2009 to 2013, Dr. Dung carried out epidemiological surveys and investigations on LF patients, and coordinated disease elimination activities in affected communities. He expects that Vietnam will complete the WHO process of verifying the elimination of LF by 2016.
After becoming the vice-head (in 2008) and later, the head (in 2010) of the Parasitology Department, Dr. Dung played a lead role in NTD epidemiological research and policy development. He is also involved in fundraising for the nationwide control and prevention of soil-transmitted helminthes among children ages 24-60 months, primary school students, and women of reproductive age. The program now delivers semi-annual mass treatments to around 38 million primary school children in 40 provinces, 15 million women of reproductive age in 16 provinces, and 17 million pre-school children. “Many people are involved in making this program a success; I am happy to do my small part,” says Dr. Dung.
Looking to the future, Dr. Dung notes that the program still faces challenges, such as limited government investment and lack of public awareness. To help overcome these barriers, he is advocating for a national NTD strategy for 2020-2030; and together with colleagues in other institutions, Dr. Dung is developing a national action plan for NTDs for 2015-2020. Under his calm and gracious leadership, STH is under control in many areas, LF is close to verified elimination, and Vietnam can rightly claim that NTDs are neglected no longer.