First-year student Lynn Nguyen wears many hats. Not only is she a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, but she is also a researcher, a mentor, a women’s rights advocate, an English teacher, and a first-generation daughter of refugees.
“As a first-generation Vietnamese American woman, I am humbled to be pursuing not only my wildest dream of healing and helping others, but also my family's dreams,” Nguyen said.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., home to the fifth largest Vietnamese population in the country, Nguyen felt the stigma surrounding mental health and trauma in a community healing from the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Her father escaped Vietnam in 1975. Her mother was left behind with her infant brother. They tried to escape twice by boat, but the boats sank. Through grit, faith, and perseverance, her parents reunited in America in 1980.
Nguyen's parents taught her to remember her roots and to lift up her community. They taught her rén — a central tenet of Confucianism — that focuses on benevolence, altruism, and regard for others.
“My interest in medicine was rooted in this value of helping others. My journey so far has been guided by this philosophy and how my parents modeled sacrifice and service,” Nguyen shared.
While attending her Vietnamese church in D.C. as a kid, Nguyen met a family medicine doctor who came to America as a political refugee.
“He brought healing and comfort to generations of Vietnamese families, including my 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. He understood our family histories and experiences of loss and displacement,” Nguyen shared.
Inspired by the doctor’s cultural competency in practicing health care, Nguyen began a journey of serving the underserved. She accompanied her own immigrant family to doctor’s visits, provided end-of-life care as a certified nurse aide at a hospice center in rural Iowa, delivered goods on medical outreach trips in Ho Chi Minh City, worked in harm reduction on the streets of Copenhagen, and mentored at-risk youth in D.C.
Before she came to UCLA, Nguyen conducted clinical psychiatry research at the National Institutes of Health as a post-baccalaureate intramural research fellow. She has contributed to five published articles on prenatal stress, neurobiological development, youth bipolar disorder, irritability, depression, and more.
Nguyen's research continues today. At Dr. Chunqing Lin’s lab in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, she is researching the impact of stigma on Women Living with HIV/AIDS (WLHA) in Vietnam. She is examining their experiences with family planning, pregnancy, and motherhood.
“I hope to raise awareness, promote gender equality, and improve access to comprehensive health and reproductive services for women in Vietnam,” she said.
She chose UCLA for medical school because of the Global Health Program and opportunities to engage globally during her discovery year.
“As part of the Global Health Equity Pathway, I hope to spend my third year in Vietnam connecting with familial roots and gaining the knowledge, skills, and critical perspectives to advance health equity in a global context,” she said.
At UCLA, she is part of the Medical Student Council as an Equity and Diversity Inclusion Representative for her class. She also serves as the mentorship co-chair for the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, where she encourages UCLA undergraduate students of AANHPI descent in their health profession journeys.
Nguyen hopes to continue serving Vietnamese communities. She volunteers as a teaching assistant with VietMD, a U.S. Embassy-sponsored nonprofit, to facilitate medical English courses for Vietnamese health professionals.
“As a physician with rén as my guide, I hope to integrate my medical knowledge, scientific expertise, and ethical training to bring culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare to all, locally and globally,” Nguyen shared.
Read the feature on UCLA Newsroom: First-year medical student uses rén, a Confucian virtue, as her guide