Nga Tuyet Trang’s Tech Innovation is Saving Millions Of Vietnam’s Babies

By co-founding MTTS, Nga Tuyet Trang is bringing life-saving technology to Vietnamese hospitals, allowing them to reduce infant mortality.

By co-founding MTTS, Nga Tuyet Trang is bringing life-saving technology to Vietnamese hospitals, allowing them to reduce infant mortality.

Nga Tuyet Trang grew up in post-war Vietnam, where there was a shortage of everything, including healthcare. She wanted to make things better, and though she had ideas, she had no resources.

When she got a scholarship to study in Denmark, she took it. She came back to Vietnam, and started working in Hanoi, for a U.S.-based medical organization in Hanoi that connected local doctors and foreign health care equipment designers. As part of her job, she often visited hospitals, and the huge gap between Denmark and Vietnam in the quality of the facilities and healthcare bothered her.

One day she witnessed the heartbreaking sight of a newborn baby dying, because it could not breathe. Its life could have easily been saved, if the hospital had the right equipment. Nga Tuyet Trang made it her life’s work to make sure that such tragedies no longer happen.

She set up MTTS (Medical Technology Transfer and Services ) along with a few friends, in partnership with California based East Meets West Foundation, that helped with the R&D. MTTS designs, manufactures and distributes appropriate medical equipment for neonatal intensive care, especially for low resource settings, like Vietnamese hospitals.

Many people tried to stop her. “Everybody kept saying that nothing could be done without the money. Denmark is the way it is because they are rich, they were pointing out. Well, we have to start somewhere, I replied,” she says.

The machines MTTS makes are revolutionary because they are low cost, designed specifically to be used in places that do not have many resources and can be easily operated even without much training. This is achieved in the following ways:

  1. They hired only local staff and had foreign volunteers’ expertise for free. This kept the costs down.
  2. She realized that the imported machines themselves were not so expensive, but the “running” costs are what made them expensive. So the machines made by MTTS are designed to have minimal running costs. For example, in a foreign CPAP machine (that is used to help newborn babies with breathing difficulties), a tube needs to be replaced every time the machine is used. In the MTTS machine, called the Dolphin CPAP, the tube can be reused after sterilization.
  3. Because there was no guarantee of electricity supply, the machines are made compatible with a battery and solar energy.
  4. The machines, especially their phototherapy machine, The Firefly, used to treat jaundice in babies, are made “hard to use wrong.” This means that staff required to operate them do not need to be highly trained.
  5. The machines are durable and function for much longer.

A news report (watch video below) shows just how much impact these machines have had. As of 2017, MTTS had delivered over 3,200 devices, and has saved the lives of 1.4 million babies, including 105,000 in 2017 alone.

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For this truly inspiring work, MTTS and Trang were awarded “Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2017” by Schwab Foundation.

According to recent statistics by WHO, 6.3 million children under the age of 15 years died in 2017. 5.4 million of them were under the age of 5 and 2.5 million of those children died within the first month of life. Most of these deaths are caused by lack of access to simple, affordable interventions. Through MTTS, Nga Tuyet Trang is making a difference, one child and one machine at a time.

The theme of International Women’s Day, 2019, which falls on March 8th, is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. #IWD2019

With women still a minority in science, technology & related innovation, it’s time to shine a spotlight on female innovation champions! Enjoy our Women Innovators Around The World series, where we profile 19 inspiring women innovators, from 19 countries, whose work has a big social impact.

Want to know what other innovations women around the world have pioneered? Read about Yanina Taneva here.

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