Pham Ngoc Thach

Dernier ajout : 5 juillet 2009.

Pham Ngoc Thach, a Devoted Physician

Pham Ngoc Thach (1909 - 1968) made a large contribution to the cause of healthcare development in Vietnam. He was the former minister of healthcare and director of the central Anti-Tuberculosis Institute. He was given by the State, among a great number of honourary awards, the title ’Hero of Labour’, and recently, the Ho Chi Minh Prize for his group of 34 scientific works in on tuberculosis in Vietnam and for the principles he laid down on people’s healthcare.

Thirty years ago, Pham Ngoc Thach lay down forever because of the inflammation of gall membrane and violent malaria at a guerrilla base in a forest in Tay Ninh province in South Vietnam.

Professor Ho Dac Di, former rector of the Hanoi Medical University and chairman of the Medical Association of Vietnam, expressed his pain at the sudden sad news : "Is Pham Ngoc Thanh no more ? The sad news came as a sudden shock, I was so grieved that I could not believe that it was true... It seemed days ago when Ton That Tung, Tran Huu Tuoc and I had a talk with him before he set out to the south... When we said farewell, I felt his warmth in the handshake of comradeship and I thought the warmth would remain forever in my hands. But he is no more now !".

Deeply moved by Pham Ngoc Thach’s death, Diep Minh Tuyen, an artist, worked 72 hours on end without any food or sleep to finish the half-length statue of Tu Thach (as he was called in a friendly way) so that it would be placed on a stone pedestal in time for the memorial service in his honour organised by the medical circle.

Jean Paul Satre, a well-known French writer wrote in his message of condolence : "We admire and love his virtuous personality, intelligence and devotion".

Laurent Schwartz, a mathematician, wrote : " He is a great teacher, a big politician and a man of altruism".

Professor Andre Russell said : "He is a lofty virtuous man !".

Prior to the August 1945 Revolution, Pham Ngoc Thach was widely known throughout magnificent Saigon for his modesty and philanthropy.

One night, a poor woman in a small alley fell ill suddenly. One of her relatives came and made bold to knock at the door of Pham Ngoc Thach’s clinic. A young man in underwear got out from the mosquito-net hung over a canvas chair under a tree in the garden. He was taken to be the servant of the well-known physician. But after some few seconds, the "servant" drove the car himself at a high speed to inspect the patient... In Saigon, Tu Thach was broadly known as a "physician for the masses" who was always eager to offer free inspection and medication to the working people such as porters, cyclo-drivers, newspaper and shoe children. After many years of study in Hanoi and abroad, Pham Ngoc Thach became a famous expert on tuberculosis and the only member representing the entire Indochinese region in France’s Association of Tuberculosis Studies. Coming back to Saigon, he had every condition to enjoy a luxurious life, however he did not see it as the "will of a practitioner". His clinic was a treatment place for the poor people who suffered from serious illnesses or revolutionaries who had suffered through colonial imprisonment. He also organised of the Youth Vanguard Movement to unite the young people who were enthusiastic to "embark on the path of dangers to seek the light source" and determined to "save the Nam country". After the success of the August 1945 Revolution, he was appointed to the Provisional People’s Revolutionary Committee of Saigon.

In 1954, the northern part of the country was liberated. Pham Ngoc Thach was assigned the posts of Minister of Healthcare and Director of the Central Anti-Tuberculosis Institute.

Although Pham Ngoc Thach was very busy with the organisational and leading roles, he never abandoned science and his profession. Dead B.C.G vaccine was an unique project carried out by a collective of Vietnamese physicians under Pham Ngoc Thach’s leadership. The vaccine which could be easily hept for a long time by anyone without a fridge, was available everywhere in the plains as well as in the mountainous areas. Tens of millions of people were immunised by that vaccine. The number of people infected by tuberculosis sharply decreased. More than 60 research institutes over the world asked Pham Ngoc Thach for information on dead B.C.G. "Tubercle", the magazine of the tuberculosis and lung disease study society in the UK carried an introduction of the B.C.G project and concluded that "for developing countries, the tuberculosis protection and control measures worked out by Pham Ngoc Thach are the best". Pham Ngoc Thach devoted all his heart and mind to the project for three consecutive years.

With his rich clinical experience and vast professional knowledge, Pham Ngoc Thach also studied a number of lung diseases which had never been mentioned before in Vietnam such as lung fungus, lung parasite and coal and silica dust infections. A new chapter on respiratory diseases of the Vietnamese people was discovered by his pioneering research works. He was also the first person to study the combination of philatop with antibiotics to inject into the sensitive points of human body to treat tuberculosis patients. Some of the methods initiated by him are no longer applied today, but in the past years of hardship, tens of thousands of patients were successfully cured.

As a revolutionary physician, Pham Ngoc Thach was interested in epidemic prevention, in elimination of social diseases and in building a healthcare network at the grass-root level and in the countryside. Medical history of Vietnam noted the large contribution of the Minister - Hero to the lofty humanitarian cause of healthcare.

The former prime minister and advisor to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Pham Van Dong said : "Pham Ngoc Thach is a staunch fighter of the revolutionary cause of our Party and people... He is an example who had a good way of observing, thinking and studying to find creative and unique solutions to complicated and difficult problems with a view to eliminating the diseases left over by the old society".

Pham Ngoc Thach was posthumously awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize for his 34 scientific research projects to prevent and combat tuberculosis in Vietnam, and the principles on the building of the people’s healthcare and the healthcare network at grass-root level as well as in the countryside which were laid down, organised and implemented by himself.

Pham Ngoc Thach has gone forever ! However, he belongs to a few whose names will live forever with the rivers and mountains. Streets in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city are named after him : Pham Ngoc Thach Street.