My interest in studying medicine developed under unusual circumstances. In 1980, I contracted an icteric hemorrhagic fever in a rural area of South Vietnam. This disease became so serious that it nearly took my life. Although there was a lack of medication, the physician was able to save my life. While recuperating in the hospital, I thought that one day if I had an opportunity, I would like to become a doctor and save lives the way my life was being saved. But my goal became almost impossible when my freedom and survival were threatened by the North Vietnamese communists. After South Vietnam was taken over by these communists in 1975, my father was imprisoned for being an officer in the South Vietnamese government. We, the children, were considered criminals in the new communist-ruled society. Plowing and harvesting the crops became my daily routine at the age of 10. Although I had been the top student in my class for many years, I was denied academic and social opportunities. Living under the communist regime where our personal rights and religious freedom were taken away, my family decided to leave Vietnam (after my father was released from the prison in 1981). In an overcrowded little boat with a forty percent chance of survival, we managed to escape to our first point of freedom: Indonesia.
In November 1982, we arrived in the United States as political refugees. Realizing that America is a country of liberty and a land of opportunity where my dream could become a reality, I was able to overcome obstacles such as differences in culture, lifestyle, climate, and most importantly, a language that I could not speak. Throughout my high school years (1985-1987), I had to work at night at St. Anthony's Hospital to help support my family. I had to catch up with my peer group in areas such as sciences and English, subjects in which the educational process was drastically deficient in Vietnam. Education, I believe, would be the key to open the door to my future. From starting out as an English as a Second Language student in the 9th grade, I became a straight A honor student by the time I graduated from high school. I did especially well in math and the sciences. At Amarillo College, I continued my education where I participated in the Honors Program and received an Associate's degree in Pre-Medicine. After graduating summa sum laude from West Texas A & M University with a Bachelor's degree in Biology, I continued my medical education at Texas A & M Health Sciences Center and received a Doctor of Medicine Degree in 1995.
Being close to death during my early years, I have learned to appreciate the value of life. I chose medicine because I would like to perform the art of healing for the rest of my life. Medicine is a challenging field in that it combines knowledge, nature, and caring to cope with life and its diseases. Without medicine, civilization could not exist. In addition, I have grown up to envision education as the ladder of life, and caring as the way to life. Throughout my third year in medical school, I had many unforgettable experiences. Among those experiences was helping to care for Mr. C, an 85-year-old gentleman who was admitted for the treatment of shortness of breath and sharp chest pain. During my daily rounds with this patient, I not only learned about the pathophysiology of his disease, but I also understood the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. While the diagnosis was still pending, our relationship grew stronger each day. Then one day, I had to break the news to him that his diagnosis was tumor emboli, blood clots to the lungs from his past colon cancer. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he squeezed my hands tightly in disbelief. I continued to see him on rounds as before. On each visit, I noticed that my relationship with him had become a treatment for his incurable condition. Tears on his cheeks were replaced with a friendly smile as he thanked me for being there. Although medical technology has prolonged people’s lives, it is the doctor-patient relationship that alleviates pain, suffering, and loneliness when technology fails. Becoming an internist has been the most gratifying experience in life for me. I can directly apply my knowledge, God-given talents, and kindness to help the less fortunate. I believe that a person who possesses a kind heart in addition to knowledge in medicine truly makes a difference in lives. Medicine also provides me constant challenges to improve myself. My satisfaction in life is the well-being of my patients. I cannot change the world, but I hope to make it better.