Vietnam: Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong

All I have done is not enough compared to my people’s sacrifice and losses.

— Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong (born 1944) is director of Tu Du Obstetric Hospital, the largest obstetric hospital in Vietnam. She gained a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and a post-graduate degree in obstetrics and gynaecology in 1974. Conferred the title of Medical Professor by the French President in 1994, she is on the Advisory Board on Women’s Health in Asia, and the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproductive Endocrinology (Aspire). She chairs the Vietnam-US Friendship Association in Ho Chi Minh City and is on the executive board of the HCMC Association of Agent Orange Victims.

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong’s marriage ended when she refused to leave her war-torn country to settle in France with her husband after the war ended in Vietnam. Instead, she stayed on, devoting her talents to her patients and to transforming the Tu Du Obstetric Hospital into the leading obstetric center in North Vietnam where modern technologies have been successfully applied in scientific researches. The success of its in-vitro fertilization program has made it the largest fertility center in Southeast Asia with a success rate as high as in developed countries. The hospital is run by women, and 70 percent of its doctors and personnel have PhDs in healthcare. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong has trained many talents, including her daughter, who has also become famous in Vietnam. She has trained over 100 ethnic midwives and provided them with financial support and vehicles for travel to remote mountainous areas, where they perform deliveries for poor people, helping them avoid health risks while giving birth. Despite her age, she brings ultrasound equipment, microscopes, medicines and noodles to mountainous areas, where she gives medical examinations to residents and carries out research on diseases and the status of the victims of the toxic chemical Agent Orange. As a physician for 30 years, she has seen many cases of birth defects, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the total number of births, resulting from Agent Orange. Whether she is in the operation room, lecturing in universities in Vietnam, France or the US, or doing research in the mountainous areas of the country, she reflects what she told her husband when she refused to go with him to France after the war: "The country is still poor, we had better stay. We did not make any contribution during the war, now we have to make some to relieve the people’s suffering."

Tu Du Obstetric Hospital Ho Chi Minh City Association of Agent Orange Victims