Clad in his usual trendy black suit, Vietnam's premier acupuncturist Nguyen Tai Thu sits in his small room on the second floor of the Central Acupuncture Institute studying.
The 79 year-old-professor, who has spent over half a century doing acupuncture, has used his needles to treat hundreds of thousands of local and foreign patients.
Thu's acupuncture methods, especially his techniques used to substitute or supplement anesthetic in surgery and detoxification for drug addicts have been successfully applied in Vietnam and introduced to nearly 50 countries and territories. Only 5-10 percent of his clients have been re-addicted after being treated with his acupuncture method.
"I was very concerned about how to implement effective detoxification to drug addicts, as there was a large increase in the number of addicts in Hanoi in the 90s," Thu said. "In fact, I started to be interested in the field when I treated injured soldiers who heavily depended on pain-killers in the 70s."
Admiring his talent, nations such as Canada, Mexico and Italy have invited him to teach the detoxification acupuncture method. Some foreign doctors have come to the Central Acupuncture Hospital to study the rudiments of Vietnamese acupuncture from Thu, who pioneered the technique.
The professor has opened acupuncture training courses in 49 countries, including the US, France, Holland, Mexico and China, as well as teaching acupuncture in English, French and Chinese.
Thu has helped open four acupuncture centers in Mexico, offering treatment to nearly one million Mexican residents. Robert Anaya, General Secretary of the Mexican Labor Party, on a trip to Vietnam late last year, visited Thu and thanked him for the generosity he showed to Mexico's health sector and people.
Devoting his life to teaching and practicing acupuncture, Thu said, "My greatest happiness is to see patients recover and introduce Vietnam's valuable traditional medicine to the world."
Thu's passion for medicine started when he was a young soldier. "Seeing many Vietnamese injured or killed in the war against French colonialists in 1945, I wished to study medicine to save people," he said.
After studies in China in 1958, he returned to Vietnam and focused on researching how to apply acupuncture when there was a shortage of equipment.
"All of my studies have been conducted without using modern electronic equipment. Many nights, my late son would wake up, and seeing long needles all over my body [Thu tested his techniques on himself], he would cry out, as he didn't know what had happened," he recalled.
Thu, who has been honored as the "People's Physician" and "Labor Hero," has helped some 500,000 disabled children nationwide access free treatment, and over 1,200 drug addicts recover using acupuncture.
He is also a founder of the Central Acupuncture Hospital, formerly the Vietnam Acupuncture Institute, and the 25,000-member Vietnam Acupuncture Association.
Despite his age, the professor has continued studying acupuncture and treating patients.
"I still come to all 64 cities and provinces nationwide, and even go abroad, mainly to Europe and North America to offer acupuncture teaching and treatment, mainly for people," Thu said.
The professor has collected money, most often from non-governmental organizations, to build an acupuncture hospital in Vietnam for disabled children. "I want the hospital's construction to be finished soon, so that I can have more opportunity to help over three million disabled children nationwide," he said.
Worried that Vietnam does not have an official acupuncture training establishment yet, he wants to open a college and name it after himself.
"I am waiting for a state license for the college. Two firms from Russia and Taiwan have expressed their interest to invest in it," he said. "In fact, I dream of opening an acupuncture university. But, I am afraid that I'll run out of time."
No matter how bad the weather, Thu still works at the Central Acupuncture Hospital from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and hopes that Vietnam's acupuncture will advance to greatness.