THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Living the American Dream
Moving from Vietnam to the United States enabled me to become an optometrist.
DO NGUYEN, O.D. MEMPHIS, TENN.
In 1985, my parents and six siblings escaped in small boats from Vietnam for America, where their children would have better opportunities. I was born in a refugee camp in Indonesia — that’s how I got the name “Do” — in 1986, and we arrived in Memphis, Tenn., when I was four months old. My parents, who spoke little English, became labor workers for $3.25 an hour. Roughly one year ago, I began my first day as an optometrist at the Eyewear Gallery in Memphis, Tenn.
A few memories stick out from when we first moved to America. They used to serve as motivation to succeed, but now they are a daily reminder of how far our family has come and how lucky we are.
We used to go to the retail food chain Kroger on Tuesdays, so we could double and triple our coupons. I would buy a big bag of cheese puffs for 99 cents.
My family and I didn’t believe it when our American relatives told us there were places in the United States where doors would open if you stood in front of them. We found out this was true when we went to Kroger.
I remember wearing my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoes to my first day of kindergarten and not understanding a single thing the teacher said because my family and I mostly spoke Vietnamese at home.
When I got older, I asked my teachers for their lesson plans weeks before we would go over them. This way, I could practice my reading and not embarrass myself when I read during class.
In high school, I remember thinking I had to do really well, so that I could get a college scholarship.
On April 1, 2004, Brown University sent me an acceptance letter saying I had been given the Brown University Endowed Scholarship. I felt extremely happy, proud and relieved. Also, I felt a part of my American dream had come true — that hard work had paid off. I recently attended my five-year college reunion and smiled about how much I’ve grown.
Most of my older siblings are in medicine and married to someone in medicine. I used to shadow and pester them with questions. This experience, a desire to help others see better and the chance to work in different settings (e.g. hospital/VA/privatepractice/school/commercial) inspired me to go to optometry school.
Dr. Nguyen as a kindergartner and now as an O.D.
It’s been more than a year since I graduated from SCO, though it feels like an eternity and a blink of an eye at the same time.
I’m grateful to work every day with caring staff, two great bosses and wonderful patients. Also, I’m thankful I have a wonderful family and great friends and that I am involved in a mentoring program to help high school students with the college admissions process — a long way from that little boy who couldn’t speak English. I am living my American dream, and it’s only the beginning. OM
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JENNIFER.KIRBY@PENTAVISIONMEDIA.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.
Optometric Management, Volume: 49 , Issue: January 2014, page(s): 49