Doctor Yersin, A Compassionate Heart
July 19th 2012.
Besides being famous all over the world as a talented medical doctor who discovered plague bacilli, participated in developing serum rabies vaccine, and discovered diphtheria toxin, Doctor Yersin was respected by the Vietnamese thanks to his contribution to ’s medical field. Not only the people in Dalat, the city he discovered, but also in Nha Trang, the city where he stayed forever, loved him as if he were a true Vietnamese. They called him Mr. (ông Năm) as he was a native man of the country.
Doctor Alexandra Yersin was born on September 22nd, 1863 in with French nationality and died on March 1st, 1943 at Suoi Dau, Cam Ranh, , . He was considered the founder and the first dean of (1902 – 1904). In agriculture, he was the initiator of importing rubber trees from to . At that time, General Governor of , Paul Doumer, agreed with Yersin to set up a farm in Suoi Dau, then at Hon Ba (in 1915) where he planted the first quinquina to produce quinine drugs to treat malaria.
I have relatives living in Cam Ranh Bay, hence the names of Bai Gieng, Suoi Dau are always familiar to me. However, when I was young, I always wondered about the name of Mr. Nam Yersin or in Nha Trang. Who was he? When I came back to Dalat and participated in the 100-year-old anniversary of Dalat Foundation and Development, I discovered the big contribution of Mr. Nam Yersin to Dalat and . Therefore, my journey to find out about Mr. was not so hard when I came back to Suoi Dau.
Suoi Dau belongs to Suoi Cat Village, Dien Khanh District, Khanh Hoa Province which is far away from Dalat, about 190 kilometers and Nha Trang about 22 kilometers. When traveling to Suoi Dau, you will be guided to the resting place of a great man, a famous doctor and a kind-hearted man whose name is Mr. . A one-kilometer path leads to his grave on a small hill, shaded by quinquina and rubber trees. His grave is marked by the words “Tombeau du Dr. Yersin”. At his grave, remembering him through smoke of incense, I could not understand why Yersin gave Dalat such a big love. If he first settled in Nha Trang on July 29th, 1891, just two years later, why did he discover Dalat on 21st June 1893? Since then, Doctor Yersin became the great man of Dalat during its foundation and development. At present, Dalat has a street and a university named “Yersin”. The city also has a park carrying his name whose statue has been constructed in the park next to beautiful . It is the most meaningful gift that shows its deepest gratitude to his contribution as the father of this land. At Con Hamlet in Nha, it is really surprising when the people in Dalat think about Yersin as if he was their Saint. It is a fact that Vietnamese always honored the man that had a simple life and devoted his time for the public. During his life of 80 years, he spent nearly 50 years for science. He was also the first man who planted new flower seeds in Dalat. Nowadays, Dalat is the most ideal resort place in Asian region as well as all over the world. Remembering Doctor Yersin, Dalat people come back to Nha Trang to get incense for him. I just met some people, and all of them told me that Yersin was as a good Saint and honored as a bodhisattva in temples. In 1991, an International Forum about Yersin was held in Nha Trang to confirm his massive scientific career and his valuable contribution to and humanity.
Back to Dalat, I remember Mr. Nam at Suoi Dau. A simple grave is the same as one thousand other graves; just one little difference; that is his heart. Indeed, a small grave is for a great man, a famous doctor of all time. And, the more we heard his last words, the more we respected our Doctor Yersin: “Before I die, I wish to be buried at Suoi Dau. Phuong, please, keep me in Nha Trang, do not let anyone take me away. All of my assets will be presented to some of my maids and to the Nha Trang Pasteur Institute. I hope to be simply buried without noise or eulogy”. They are words of a great writer. The Vietnamese still call him Mr. which erases all boundaries of his compassionate heart.
By Nguyen Thanh Nga