by Nam Do, M.D.
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 to 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 the North Vietnamese communists in 1975, my father was imprisoned for being an officer in the South Vietnamese government. We, the children, were considered to be 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 and a 40% 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 the obstacles such as differences in culture, lifestyles, climate, and most importantly, in a language that I could not speak. Education, I believe, would be the key to open the door to my future. From starting out as an ESL student in the 9th grade, I became a straight A’s honor student by the time I graduated from high school.
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. Although, medical technology has prolonged one’s life, it is the doctor-patient relationship that alleviates the pain, sufferings, and solitude when technology fails. My satisfaction and rewards in life are the well-being of my patients. I cannot change the world, but I only hope to make it better.