A Vietnamese woman was awarded the Legion of Honor medal by the French government during a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday.
French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean - Noel Poirier, on behalf of the Republic of France, presented the medal to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoi at the French Consulate General in the southern city.
Dr. Hoi, 81, was awarded the honor for her great contributions to healthcare and volunteer work with the cooperation of French humanitarian organizations during the past 27 years.
She is the former deputy director of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City and former vice chair of the Vietnam Red Cross.
The woman is currently vice chair of the Vietnam-France Friendship Association in the southern hub.
After graduating with a degree in specialized bacteria and chemical biology from a school in France in 1954, Dr. Hoi returned to Vietnam and took on the role as head of the Bacteriology Laboratory at the Hanoi Hospital of Tuberculosis and Pneumonia for twenty years before moving to the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.
As head of the Microbiology and Immunology Laboratory at the institute, she initiated many volunteer activities by calling for French organizations and individuals to assist Vietnam in developing the public health system, help those in unfortunate situations, and improve the living conditions and healthcare for communities in remote areas.
Up to now, she has been calling for financial assistance worth nearly 2 million euros ($2.75 million) from French governmental and non-governmental organizations for 312 projects implemented in 53 provinces across Vietnam.
These projects have helped build more kindergartens and primary and lower secondary schools for local students; drill hundreds of wells to provide clean water for thousands of local farmers; reduce the proportion of children dying of diarrhea; treat eye and gynecological diseases; organize medical missions to treat illnesses; and enhance public awareness of hygiene and environmental protection.
Among the projects are initiatives for poor families to get no-interest loans so that they can raise cows, pigs, goats, ducks, and fish.
In addition, the projects have also contributed to the preservation and development of traditional Vietnamese craftsmanship among local ethnic minorities.
Dr. Hoi is the 5th Vietnamese woman to have been awarded this prestigious medal, after Ton Nu Thi Ninh, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Vietnam in the European Union; Nga Tran, former principal of Ho Chi Minh City’s Marie Curie High School; Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, incumbent Minister of Health; and Nguyen Thi Xuan Phuong, a former war correspondent.
The medal was presented to Ninh in 1997 and 2013, to Tran in 2004, to Tien in 2009, and to Phuong in 2011.
The Legion of Honor medal is awarded by the French government annually to French citizens and foreigners who have made special contributions to France and the country they live in, thus enhancing relations between the two countries.
The French government usually presents one to two medals to Vietnamese citizens each year, Jean - Noel Poirier, the French Ambassador, said.
The Legion of Honor is the highest medal awarded in the Republic of France, first initiated by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802.
The Medal has five main levels, of which Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur (Knight) is the highest ranking.