Why did you become a physician?
I have a very humble pedigree. My parents attained only the 5th grade of education. (In Vietnam, only the affluent had opportunities to the prized luxury of higher education.) My father was a fisherman and my mother peddled his catch at the local village market. When we arrived to America, my parents emphasized the need to take advantage of my educational opportunities – study!
In my senior year of high school, the Department of Energy (DOE) offered me a scholarship to continue my work at Brookhaven National Laboratory (the brightest particle accelerator at the time) on adsorption of titanium alloys in aqueous environments. I was given a full scholarship to study physics. I was Missouri’s representative for a DOE sponsored research grant.
Upon hearing of this news, my parents were thrilled; but, they said to me, translated, “Son, why don’t you pick a career that will also help people?” Determined to satisfy my parents’ request, I went to medical school. It was only after caring for patients did I experience that exhilarating, warm, and comforting sense of satisfaction which all doctors know and feel but cannot easily describe.
Tell us about your educational and professional background.
I attended the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s six-year program (combined undergraduate and medical school). I earned my Bachelor of Science in Biology/Chemistry and my Medical Doctorate. I went to the Medical College of Wisconsin for my orthopedic surgery residency. While moonlighting in the local Emergency Departments, one of the hospitals asked me to be their Medical Director. After a few years, I recognized the need to acquire managerial and economic skills. I went back to school to attain a Master’s of Business Administration at Regis University. And since I wanted to take care of the entire patient, I went to University of Kentucky at Lexington for Internal Medicine residency. I stayed locally (UK/VA) to complete a fellowship in Patient Safety and Quality. And recently, I also acquired board certification in Addiction Medicine to address the opioid epidemic which has plagued our society. Additional training of note included: the KMA Kentucky Physician Leadership Institute in 2017, the VA Leadership Institute in 2014, and Black Belt certification for Lean Manufacturing 2010.
I currently work at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington. I began working as an emergency physician and hospitalist, progressed to become assistant Chief of Medicine, Medical Director of the Endoscopy suite, and currently serve as the Associate Chief of Staff, Virtual Care. My duties are to improve the institution’s mortality, hospital readmissions, physician productivity and efficiency, hospital flow, and Telehealth program. (The Lexington VAMC moved from a 2-star hospital rating to a 5-star, and is only one of 11 VA hospitals out of 150+ facilities nationwide to achieve a 5-star rating.) I also enjoy teaching our UK residents and medical students who rotate to the VA for their clinical electives. And since 2009, I have served as the physician member of UK’s IRB (Institutional Review Board, a panel that insures the safety of human subjects in research) and the vice-chair of the VA’s IRB. Finally, in March of 2017, I was detailed for three months to Montgomery, Alabama, to serve as the Chief of Staff for two VA Medical Facilities.
What are your interests outside of medicine?
I have five children so there is not much time to engage hobbies which do not involve the children. My hobbies are my family, my children, and their activities. We travel and we enjoy dining, especially other cultural foods. But when I finally get some personal time, I enjoy sitting back to play computer games.
Why did you join the Lexington Medical Society?
There are two reasons for my membership to the Lexington Medical Society. First, I firmly believe in the vision and mission. I wanted to join an organization which will support physicians and their efforts to provide quality care for patients and the community. I wanted to be part of that positive contribution to society. Second, I have often discussed with other physicians regarding their dissatisfaction and frustration with our broken medical system. To effect change, though, we need to identify the etiologies of this brokenness and advocate to our legislators for changes to improve the practice of medicine. To effectively advocate and get heard, I needed to join an organized physician group, one with a loud unified voice. I have learned that I can either complain about my plight, or I can participate to become part of the solution. And I decided to do the latter.