Thanh Nguyen is a medical student at the University of Washington, School of Medicine (entering class of 2019). He was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States in 2002. He was a public health major and joined VHIO as a sophomore. In his free time, he likes backpacking, watching sunrises and sunsets, and city gazing from his rooftop.
-Updated October 2019
VIETNAMESE DEPARTMENT COORDINATOR 2013 – 2014, EXTERNAL DIRECTOR 2014-2015
I was involved in VHIO for 4 years during my undergrad. I can genuinely say that VHIO played a critical role in my personal and professional development. Through my volunteering experiences as a Vietnamese health interpreter and leadership experiences as External Director, I gained so many useful skills such as communication, public speaking, and teamwork. In addition, I also learned so so much working with our communities in Bay Area. Getting to interpret for patients and hearing about their background was no doubt one of my most meaningful experiences. It was immensely gratifying seeing how my language abilities served to alleviate health care disparities that are so prevalent in our communities. It was through these interactions with the community that really got me through my difficult times in Bio 1A, MCB 102, Ochem, Gen Chem (pretty much all the med school prerequisites). Hearing about the stories of Vietnamese refugees and the obstacles they face navigating our healthcare system was truly heartbreaking, but also very inspiring. They kept me grounded and reminded me to keep pursuing my path towards medicine. I cannot be more grateful for all the amazing experiences I have gained through VHIO.
Going through sciences classes at Cal was no easy task for me. I really struggled academically. It destroyed my motivation and I lost all hopes of getting into medical school. However, I did some reflection and took a semester off to reenergize. During that time off, I reminded myself of my passion to serve the underserved immigrant communities. I reminded myself of their stories and injustices they face in our healthcare system. When I came back to Cal, I became motivated again to retake those classes and keep pushing forward. Failing sucks, but what matters more is the strength you gain when you get up and keep pushing forward. Don’t ever give up. No matter how much longer it takes you to achieve your dream.
After my undergrad, I pursued a post-baccalaureate consortium program at UC Irvine. Through this program, I took upper division science courses to demonstrate that I can perform well in science courses. This program really helped prepare me for the medical school application. I completed the program June 2017. I was initially really hesitant to take time off and extending my time before medical school, but I knew that I needed more time to work with our community and also do some self-care before medical school starts. I reminded myself that this road to becoming a doctor is a journey and that a few years off will not make any difference in my career. I stopped comparing myself to my peers; everyone has a unique path and it is up to you to define a path that works best for your overall health, mentally, physically, and spiritually. For me, it meant that I had to take time off before medical school to work, travel, spend time with family/friends, and take fabulous selfies.
One last advice I can give is to try your best to not compare yourself to others. YOU DO YOU boo boo. Everything will work out and you will be successful in whatever path you decide to take! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions on how to navigating a retake for a class, post-bacc options, medical school application, gap years, etc.
Updated March 2019.