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Back from Vietnam – Welcome Home to Dr. John Hurdle, DBMI’s Own Fulbright Scholar

Welcome home to Dr. John Hurdle who just returned from his six-month sojourn to Vietnam as a Fulbright Scholar. Dr. Hurdle taught biomedical informatics at the University of Information Technology in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly named Saigon) on the topic of “Promoting Vietnamese Healthcare Informatics in a Computer Science Environment.”.

As a Fulbright Scholar lecturing in India almost 25 years ago, Dr. Hurdle and his wife, Colleen McDannell, always wanted to repeat their phenomenal experience. They felt it was the right time to apply again and agreed that they would apply to the program and, regardless of who received the award, they would both go. As luck would have it, Dr. Hurdle won the award.

Because Dr. Hurdle is of the age were serving in the Vietnam War was a very real possibility as a young man, he has always had an interest in Vietnam. With opportunities to teach in just about every country in the world, it was an easy decision for him to choose Vietnam.

One of the advantages to Dr. Hurdle’s biomedical informatics expertise as he applied for the Fulbright Scholar, is that there have not been any awards in the informatics area for the past 15 years at least. He points out that we know there must be demand in almost every country (as there is in the US) so applying for a Fulbright is a great opportunity for informaticists. Dr. Hurdle encourages others to look into this amazing experience (think of it as “an all-expenses-paid trip to virtually any country in the world to teach or conduct research for 5 or 10 months). He would love to talk to you if you are interested.  He promises that it will be quite an adventure!

When asked to recount an interesting observation about Vietnam, Dr. Hurdle responded that the Vietnamese observance of the Lunar New Year in February, or as they call it, the Tết Holiday, is similar to our Thanksgiving holiday. Except that the entire country literally shuts down for a week of preparation and celebration. It was a week of “creative chaos”. The Tết Holiday was a wonderful way for the country to collectively stop, take a deep breath, be with family, and show respect to their ancestors.

Dr. Hurdle is pleased to be home but so grateful for the rich experiences he had on the other side of the world.

Dr. Hurdle mentioned one more interesting tidbit about Vietnam that is sure to whet your appetite if you are a coffee aficionado – Vietnam is famous for the most expensive coffee in the world ($35-80 for a single cup) – Weasel coffee. I’m a bit squeamish to explain, so Google it if you want to find out why it’s so expensive and what makes it so smooth, earthy, and sweet. He tried Weasel coffee and decided it was “an acquired taste…”)