The first Lean Volunteer project on my 2014 World Tour was with the East Meet West Dental Center, in Danang, Vietnam.   The EMW Dental Center had started as a dental outreach nonprofit, providing dental services to children living in rural areas of Vietnam.  Over time, the Center’s funding changed, and they decided to shift to a social enterprise by creating a for-profit dental clinic in downtown Danang.  We discuss this case in much more detail in the book, but here is a quick entry I wrote on my travel blog at the time about what I learned during a piece of my consulting.

This particular effort showed off a Design Thinking approach method called Immersion.  By becoming a real patient, and going through a real procedure, and yes even paying for it, I got to see how they really treated customers.  This gave me much more richness than just asking or interviewing.  It also had the side benefit of creating a richer and more trusting bond with the staff.

Danang Outreach 1

First outreach project, 40km west of Danang.


October, 2014:

As part of my consulting plan in Danang, Vietnam, I decided to look at my client’s processes to see if we can do some redesign.   Tooth whitening has always had an allure to me, for some reason I really don’t want to get into here, so I signed up to get my choppers whitened as a way to learn the process.  The idea of Medical Tourism has also intrigued me too.

What did I find?

Finding 1:  The East Meets West Dental Center staff, all Vietnamese, provide as skilled and modern dental service as my dentists in the U.S.  They took the same care, used the same instruments, went through the same processes, and had the same results as I’d get in the US.  Nothing in the staff’s service, other than the fact that their first language is Vietnamese, was different.   And the customer facing nurses and dentists spoke good enough English to make it a non issue.

Finding 2:  Since this is a mostly nonprofit social enterprise, nearly all of their equipment is second hand (my chair came from a donor in China, the one next to me came from a donor in the US).   But…..a chair feels like a chair, regardless of how many people have sat it in, right?  Lights lit, trays held stuff, instruments intruded in my mouth as usual.  No differences.  Supplies such as gloves, sponges, etc. were, of course, new.  Who wants to re-use a pair of gloves??? Not me!

Finding 3:  It’s a LOT cheaper!  This office did a process called Vital Whitening, which cleans your teeth, applies a powerful peroxide gel on the teeth, and then uses special lights to activate the gel and increase the bleaching of my nasty coffee stained teeth.   Took about 2 hours.  In the US, and I priced it before leaving, doing this in a dentist office costs anywhere from $600 – $1,000.   Here, in lovely Danang Vietnam, I paid $85.  Me be happy.

 Finding 4:  I LIKE thinking about what to do with the $500-$900  I just saved!  And I’m happy with my treatment, my teeth are much brighter and all with no pain or suffering.  I just can’t have coffee, tea, coke, or curry for 10 days.


Local students took me out for series of excursions and meals.

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