Mekong Medicine

A U.S. Doctor’s Year Treating Vietnam’s Forgotten Victims


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About the Book

In 1966, Dr. Richard Carlson, two years out of medical school, embarked on a year-long tour in Vietnam to treat the many forgotten victims of the war: the civilians. During medical school he was introduced to the Los Angeles County General Hospital, the huge institution that served LA’s socially and medically deprived. When drafted, he applied to work in a Vietnamese civilian hospital. His tenure at the LA hospital was the best training for what he would encounter in Vietnam.
His arrival coincided with a bloody escalation of the conflict. But like many Americans, he believed South Vietnam desired a democratic future and that the U.S. was helping to achieve that goal. He diligently chronicled his efforts to save lives in the Mekong delta province of Bac Lieu and detailed the stories of the AMA volunteer doctors, USAID nurses and corpsmen that he worked with to treat the local citizens, many of whom were Viet Cong.
He gives a glimpse of the emerging understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and his team’s development of a pioneering family planning clinic. With more than 80 photographs, this book relates hi efforts, including the competition among civilians for medical services. The facilities and equipment were primitive, and the doctors’ efforts were often hampered by folk remedies and superstition.

About the Author(s)

Richard W. Carlson, MD, PhD, is a retired academic internal medicine and intensive care physician. He remains active in teaching and research and has published more than 300 scientific manuscripts and abstracts, edited or written eight medical textbooks, and served in leadership roles in university and teaching institutions. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Bibliographic Details

Richard W. Carlson, M.D.
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 222
Bibliographic Info: 82 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8789-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4602-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
1. November 1966: Prelude to Bac Lieu, Finding My Footing 3
2. Saigon: Pearl of the Orient 9
3. Getting Familiar 13
4. Welcome to Bac Lieu 20
5. December: Bombs, Gifts, and Baby Soup 40
6. January 1967: MDs, Mudfish, and Monkey Brains 55
7. February: Tet, Typhoid, and Tetanus 69
8. March: Terror, Birth Control—Bac Lieu Style 80
9. April: Trash, Tokyo, and Hepatitis 98
10. May: Fear, a Round in the Whore House 112
11. June: Drinking Songs, VD, and Dalat 131
12. July: Drugs, Diphtheria, and Dowling 151
13. August: Daily Triumphs and Failures 168
14. September: Paving the Future, Reflections 180
15. October: Midnight Madness, Medals, and Adieu 194
Epilogue: Healing the Wounds 205
Index 211

Book Reviews & Awards

“Sobering”—VVA Veteran