Good morning, everyone. To be honest, I was quite surprised to receive the invitation from Fulbright to speak at your Convocation ceremony. This is my first time delivering a keynote speech on a school’s opening day, so I’m afraid it might not be as good as your previous ones. However, I will try to do my best.
I’m quite sure the reason I’m invited is due to the fact that I’m one of the many doctors who joined hands in fighting against Covid-19. And so, I would like to start with a few remarks regarding the pandemic.
Vietnam has undergone several outbreaks. During the latest one, my colleagues and I have been deployed to Hue, Phu Yen, Ha Tinh, Kien Giang, and most recently, Binh Duong, to offer our service in the front line. Every outbreak accordingly requires different strategies and approaches apropos of the ever-changing situation, from the “zero-Covid” strategy which aimed to curb the spread of Covid-19 through imported cases from abroad to the current “new normal” policy of living safely with the virus. Nonetheless, of all the lessons we have learned, the most pronounced thing is the core role of science in any attempt to successfully solve problems and overcome challenges. Adhering to the guidance offered and based on science is the only way, there’s no alternative.
We have followed and gone through various developments caused by the pandemic. We have learned the hard lessons from afflictions that didn’t merely turn everyday life upside down, but cost lives. All because we used to be at times overconfident, and in turn, incautious and blasé, once we, against all odds, successfully saved critically ill patients, such as the case of “Patient 91”. Thus we had neglected the importance of strengthening an integrated system – the fight against Covid-19 cannot rely solely on emergency resuscitation centers, ventilators, dialysis nor ECMO machines.
Research has shown vaccines are the key to successfully control the pandemic. The medical response system which includes preventive healthcare and medical clinics in our districts, communes and wards – our fortresses – must play a crucial role. Central and provincial level hospitals are our final strongholds only when district-level facilities are overwhelmed with patients.
From the earliest days, every one of our actions in fighting against the pandemic has been informed by findings and research articles published in scientific journals. The surge of infection rates in areas where we were put in charge was a direct result of limitations easily avoided, had local management not downplayed the role of science.
As Fulbright President has previously pointed out in her speech, the pandemic has inflicted sufferings and adversities. But at the same time, metaphorically speaking, it is a shower of rain that washed away the glorified veneers entrenched in our society. It has revealed the old way of doing and thinking that shall be replaced by the new, specifically the young thinkers and doers – like many of you present here today – who will be at the heart and forefront of our country.
The Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee of Binh Duong, where I’m currently stationed, has assured us that moving forward, Binh Duong will not put emphasis solely on attracting FDI to industrial zones, but they will invest in building high quality universities, hospitals and startup centers, to name a few. Only then will our development become sustainable and be able to withstand future upheavals. With the pandemic, leaders of Binh Duong have realized they must rely on scientific and intellectual resources so they can grow sustainably.
I’m very fond of the articles and discourses shared on Fulbright’s social media channels, for they illustrate a rational and scientific mindset worthy of Vietnam’s first not-for-profit, independent, liberal arts university. Such ethos is what I believe has empowered Fulbright to nurture its new generation of students. An ideal higher education model is one that connects and unites talents across disciplines to share and transform ideas into concrete applications that will serve our communities, as well as contribute to the nurturing of a progressive academic environment. It’s something that we’ve learned from you with regard to our own education program at the Hanoi Medical University.
Did you know? In the field of medicine, the number of innovations and breakthroughs from Vietnam that are recognized on a global scale is truly scarce. Our dated education model has produced many ‘golden hands’, meaning brilliant and excellent surgeons. Yet it’s nearly impossible to dream of novel medications or new and advanced technologies given the current state we have, where we lack the interconnection between fields and disciplines as well as research laboratories. Vietnam currently doesn’t have a proper animal lab nor support framework for doctors and talents to test or experiment with their ideas and turn them into reality. These are the biggest challenges facing our medical field today.
Nonetheless, I believe things will change for the better after the pandemic, that there will be more opportunities for young people like you. Seeing that you will benefit and be fully equipped from an environment such as Fulbright University Vietnam, I believe you will create your own innovations and come up with new ideas. I encourage you to instigate debates. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t back down from criticism. These lessons will help you grow as a person and prove invaluable on your path to success.
Finally, as traditionally required of any other speeches, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Fulbright students, faculty, staff and management. I wish you all the best, and most importantly, good health, which is something anyone in my position would like to offer their sincerest hope. However, I’m very certain that the pandemic or any illness wouldn’t be able to affect the Fulbright family this year, for simply put, your keynote speaker today is a doctor. My sincere thanks to you all for listening. Congratulations.
Associate Professor, Dr. Nguyen Lan Hieu,
Director of Hanoi Medical University Hospital