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Medical design engineer in Vietnam

Submitter: Leon Hiemstra
Description: (Editor's note: Since this is the chronicle of the ASTRON/JIVE family, we welcome occasional reports from former members who are engaged in somewhat unusual activities elsewhere. Leon Hiemstra worked for ASTRON and SRON as a software engineer, before becoming active as a design engineer to prepare the production of medical equipment for Vietnamese hospitals.)

The US-based non-profit organization ‘East meets West’ provides low-cost medical devices, primarily for looking after newborn babies. I started in Vietnam as a volunteer for three months in 2005. After this period there was enough work for me, so I decided to go back in 2006.

Vietnam has a surface area comparable to Norway and a population of about 90 million. Like China, it is blessed by strong economic growth, but the well-being of the people and the health-care industry have not grown at the same rate. Hospitals have to make do with poor and sometimes broken equipment, and often do not have the means to provide sufficient care for all babies.

During these last years I designed the electronics for 3 types of equipment which are now in production and distributed all over Vietnam:
- A “CPAP ventilator”, which aids the newborn child in breathing. (CPAP = Continuous Positive Air Pressure)
- A radiant heater which keeps the baby warm.
- A photo-therapy LED panel

Jaundice is a common affliction of newborn babies in Vietnam, and can easily be resolved with the help of blue-light photo-therapy. In the past, blue fluorescent light tubes were used. However, these lamps require frequent replacement and did not provide enough light for proper treatment. The new LED design provides more light and better durability.

So far, my work in Vietnam has included electronic design, software engineering, prototyping and testing, as well as managing a team of Vietnamese employees. It’s a great experience and I’m glad that I have been offered the opportunity to serve the needs of this vigorous but overpopulated country. If you are interested to know more or just want to get in touch, please contact me at: L.Hiemstra@gmail.com
Copyright: Leon Hiemstra
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