Klaus Krickeberg-Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh-City
Dernier ajout : 5 février 2015.
Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh-City
3rd April 2014
Conferment of an Honorary Doctorate of Mathematics on
My ties with Vietnam are old, about half a century old. I have visited Vi-etnam 29 times. This experience has much influenced my scientific work and my conception of science. Let me tell you how it all happened.
In the years 1960 I was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. One day a student from Saigon approached me. He had a “licence” in mathematics, which is a degree between a Bachelor and a Master, and he wanted to acquire the German degree that corre-sponded to a Master. We became friends and I got interested in Vietnam. He is still my friend, and is among us today.
In the 1970s I was a Professor at the University of Paris V. At that time there existed in Hanoi already the forerunner of the present Mathe-matical Research Institute. It made great efforts to develop high-level re-search in both pure and applied mathematics. In 1972 it published an excel-lent English-Vietnamese Mathematical Dictionary and in this way created the modern Vietnamese mathematical terminology. It invited me and in summer 1974 I travelled from Paris to Hanoi by train. That was quite cheap, so I could afford it. I gave a 6-weeks research seminar in Vietnamese to mathematicians in Hanoi.
In those days scientists in Hanoi were of course very much isolated and eager to learn about new developments abroad. The first who came to me for discussions was the Minister of Higher and Intermediate Profession-al Education, Tạ Quang Bửu. He was also a mathematician and before the war he had played a role in mathematics in France. He is one of the found-ing fathers of modern Vietnamese science.
Later the Head of the General Statistical Office in Hanoi asked me to teach a course on sample surveys, which I did. It was probably the first course ever given in Vietnam on that subject ; nowadays it is being applied everywhere.
However, there were also many scientists from other fields who wanted to know about mathematical tools in their area. In particular people from the health sciences came to me. The first one was Tôn Thất Tùng, the foremost Vietnamese physician. Our contacts continued until shortly before his death.
In the year 1978 I lectured again to Vietnamese mathematicians, both in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh-City. Then the Head of the former Pasteur In-stitute in Hanoi, Hoàng Thủy Nguyên, persuaded me to make a plan for us-ing in his institute mathematical methods for the study and control of infec-tious diseases. This I did and while doing it I realized that working in Public Health and applying there mathematical methods and mathematical ways of thinking would no doubt be an extremely useful activity.
So I started to work in the Vietnamese health system, and I got to know it on all levels and in every detail. First I organized high-level training of upper Vietnamese Health Personnel by French colleagues and by myself. This was financed over 10 years by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Then I worked with UNICEF on diarrhoea of children and with the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) on family planning. After that I took part in the Vietnamese-European Health Systems Development Programme.
Finally, in the year 2005, the Thaí Bình Medical University asked me for help in improving the teaching of Public Health. This gave rise to a pro-ject that has been growing all the time and is continuing. From the year 2008 on it has been funded by the German foundation “Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung”. It concerns the training in Public Health of normal medical students a well as of specialists in Public Health. It covers now all provincial Medical Universities and Faculties in Vietnam. Besides other ac-tivities we have founded a series of bilingual books in the Medical Publish-ing House in Hanoi. It is called “Basic Texts in Public Health” and is the first book series in the health sciences in Vietnam. Here are our first three books in this series, on Epidemiology, Demography and Health Education. The next one will be on Mathematics and Statistics in Public Health, Medicine and Pharmacy.
Based on these experiences, let me give you my general impression of the Vietnamese health system. One of the great Vietnamese achievements in recent times has been the network of Commune Health Stations. However, it looks as if this is now being neglected and that it is decaying. Instead, pri-vate physicians are being privileged. In fact, unlike the Commune Health Stations they are not required to fulfil certain highly important duties such as health education of the population, various preventive measures and tak-ing part in the Health Information Systems. In my eyes this is a real tragedy.
Finally, to conclude, let me make a remark on Vietnamese science in general. I am a member of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), which also has a few Vietnamese members. This Academy carries on various programmes and awards various prizes. On the whole I found that the role of Vietnamese scientists in activities of this kind is still fairly small. Much remains to be done. The Vietnam National University of Ho Chi Minh-City has been making great efforts in this direction. It has con-tributed a lot to building modern imaginative science in Vietnam. I am therefore very much honoured, very happy, and very grateful for receiving its Honorary Doctor’s degree.