Vietnamese honour for two Oxford professors | University of Oxford
Professors Heiman Wertheim (left) and Peter Horby (centre) receive their medals from Professor Tran Quoc Kham, Vice Head of Science and Technology Division, Vietnamese Ministry of Health
Professors Heiman Wertheim (left) and Peter Horby (centre) receive their medals from Professor Tran Quoc Kham, Vice Head of Science and Technology Division, Vietnamese Ministry of Health

Vietnamese honour for two Oxford professors

The efforts of two Oxford University tropical diseases experts have been recognised by the Vietnamese government. Professors Peter Horby and Heiman Wertheim were awarded the Vietnam Ministry of Health's Medal for the People's Health at a ceremony in Hanoi celebrating 10 years of collaboration between the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases and the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit.

The Medal is awarded to individuals who have made a major contribution to health in Vietnam. The pair received their honours for contributions to infectious and tropical diseases research in Vietnam since 2003, the beginning of the collaboration.

Our achievements in tackling tropical infections in Vietnam have been a team, not an individual, effort and this award is a tribute to all my colleagues in Vietnam who work tirelessly to improve the health of the Vietnamese people.

Professor Peter Horby, Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health, Nuffield Department of Medicine

Professor Horby started working with Vietnamese colleagues to investigate and control the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, followed by avian influenza A/H5N1 in 2004. He established the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi in January 2006, and he opened research facilities at the National Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology in 2007. The unit in Hanoi has gone from strength to strength, building on the pre-existing collaborations within the network in Ho Chi Minh City.

Professor Wertheim continued to build on the unit's successes. He expanded the laboratory facilities and improved them to meet European standards. As well as focusing on respiratory infections, Professor Wertheim was instrumental in highlighting the incidence of antimicrobial drug resistance in the area as part of the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership. He also set up a national surveillance network for antibiotic use and resistance in Vietnam and for hospital acquired infections on sixteen Vietnamese intensive care units (VINARES project).

The Wellcome Trust and Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Medicine in the UK have been instrumental in funding the unit's infrastructure and building its capacity. This has enabled it to enhance the quality of diagnosis, treatment and research into infectious diseases in Vietnam and make a positive contribution to clinical practice and health policies implemented by the Ministry of Health.

Professor Horby, now the director of the Epidemic diseases Research Group Oxford (ERGO), said: 'I feel very honoured to receive this medal from the Vietnam Ministry of Health. Our achievements in tackling tropical infections in Vietnam have been a team, not an individual, effort and this award is a tribute to all my colleagues in Vietnam who work tirelessly to improve the health of the Vietnamese people. Working in Vietnam has been the highlight of my career and I look forward to many more years working closely with my Vietnamese friends.'