First-year medical student Lynn Nguyen, whose parents are Vietnamese refugees, remembers her roots as she pursues her dream of helping others. Her parents taught her rén — a key tenet of Confucianism that focuses on benevolence, altruism and regard for others.
“My interest in medicine was rooted in this value of helping others,” she said. “My journey so far has been guided by this philosophy and how my parents modeled sacrifice and service.”
Growing up in Washington, D.C., she felt the stigma surrounding mental health in a community still healing from the aftermath of the Vietnam War. She saw how a family doctor who came to America as a political refugee brought comfort to Vietnamese families, including her own.
“It made a world of difference to have someone who could speak to us in our native language and (who) understood our cultural traditions and preferences,” she said. “He understood our family histories, and experiences of loss and displacement.
That inspired Nguyen to help the underserved. She has provided end-of-life care at a hospice center, delivered goods in Ho Chi Minh City and has conducted clinical psychiatry research at the National Institutes of Health. Now, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, she is studying the impact of stigma on women living with HIV/AIDs in Vietnam.