Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

On this rainy FriYAY Xmas eve, I was privileged and blessed to make a late afternoon housecall on this revered elder.

Meet Mr. PL, a former soldier who served in the South VietNamese Army during several wars in the last 20th Century. He suffers from very severe low back pain due to degenerative discs and arthritic vertebral spine.

When I first started coming to see him in 2019 at his home, he had all kinds symptoms arising from his chronic back pain, made worse by his labile blood pressure. At times, his blood pressure would be too high, and other times, too low. These extremes caused him to have near fainting spells, frequent falls and injuries.

But by Christmas Eve 2021 (in this second winter of COVID pandemic), he is doing better all around. His vitals were perfect. His heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, bowel, bladder functions and his mood are all stable.

He’s walking steadily without a walker or quad cane and taking minimal pain meds.

We reviewed his immunizations and he’s up to date with all 3 COVID vaccine shots, flu and shingles vaccines.

And so, today, my housecall was more of a social visit.

I brought him a healthy lunch, a tiramisu from Urth Caffe–plus a birthday candle. For a brief moment in these treacherous times, we were able to celebrate his upcoming milestone birthday.

As he does every time I come visit him on a housecall, he brewed me a cup of hot tea. Not just any tea, but a precious tea he buys in bulk, shipped from his home village called “Chè Câu Móc.”

Mr. PL strongly believes that this tea, is the key to his longevity and wellbeing. And as per usual, he insisted to give me (and my octogenarian parents), a large bag of this invaluable tea for Christmas.

Next week, on January 1st, 2022, he turns 90 years old. Chúc mừng sinh nhật, Bác PL! #MerryXMas ❤️🙏🏼🎄🌟🎂🕯#VivaLaVida #KarunaHealthCare 🕉✝️💟

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Most days, doctoring is just simply HARD, in this BRAVE New World, post-COVID. Other days like today, it flows easily wherein my patients are thriving and actually, feel well enough to reciprocate “karuna.”

But Alas! I hit a jackpot of a feast. Lucky me, I came on a Tuesday whereupon the weekly volunteer cooking crew were convening to cook a specialty dish.

I saw a record 6 housecalls today and thankfully all the patients ranging from 71 to 86 are doing well—some are even “thriving!” But the best part is rolling up to the Buddhist temple to see my VIP abess at 2pm, I was famished because I had not had time for lunch yet.

Today, they were making about 1000+ Bánh Bột Lộc (vegetarian tapioca flour tamales-like goodies, filled with sautéed tofu, carrots, leeks, black fungus and shiitake mushrooms, wrapped in banana leaves then steamed to a gooey heavenly-deliciousness.)

Banana leaves used to wrap the Banh Bot Loc
Tapioca rice dough wrapped in banana leaves, filled with tofu, carrots, leeks, black fungus: steamed to perfection.

After taking care of my VIP housecall patient, I was spoiled by an 8 course vegetarian lunch—village style, along with the cooks.

I left the temple to see my last elderly couple, a husband and wife—barely able to live on their own. The 85 yo husband (a retired pharmacist) survived COVID pneumonia under our meticulous “hospital-at-home” level care last Christmas.

Nearly a year later, he’s even stronger than his per-COVID baseline. Mostly because he now has #karunahealthcare and a whole team watching over him. His moderate-severely demented wife (also a retired pharmacist who weighs all of 72 lbs) broke her arm last April. That broken humerus is all healed. She even gained 6 pounds in the last 3 months!

At baseline, both have ataxic, unsteady gaits. Their risks for future falls are great. I have done the best I can to get home-based physical therapy for strengthening and gait training. I have prescribed and injected them every 6 months with special medications to fortify their bones, while supplementing with Vit D and Calcium. I also pray regularly that they don’t suffer more injuries.

Our interdisciplinary medical-nursing-social work team calls to check on them. Together, we work hard to help them remain living in their single-story home “safely.” But today, this fragile yet resilient couple were unusually cheerful, doing reasonably well, all things considered in this second winter of COVID. They thankfully have both received their 3rd COVAX boosters timely.

I review and remind them to make sure they get their 2-dose Shingles and Prevnar/pneumonia-vaccines—if they haven’t already. They don’t remember so I write down for them to check with their pharmacy where they get all their shots.

We reviewed their medications, to make sure they are taking them properly. I send electronic refills to make sure they have enough until I see them in the New Year.

I check their weights, vital signs and oxygen saturations: all stable. I examine them both to make sure his coronary artery disease and chronic heart failure are compensated. His legs are not swollen and his chest is clear!

I review and explain in detail their recent labs (printed out for their records). Cheerfully, I congratulated them: all their blood counts, kidney, liver, cholesterol, sugar, thyroid, urine tests being improved, actually.

Upon my leaving after attending to their chronic, complex conditions, they send me off with lotsa thoughtful homegrown gifts—for the Holidays. I received 10 pounds each of lemons, limes and persimmons—which grow “automatically” and prolifically in their backyard without any gardening efforts on their part. Being childless, this elderly couple relies on me for their survival.

In the last year during COVID shelter-in-place, I have enlisted the help when needed, of a home health agency that calls them regularly to check on their status. Intermittently, I have deployed nurses, nursing aids, physical therapists as needed, when they got acutely ill such as when he caught COVID pneumonia; or when she fell, and broker her right arm.

For their sustenance, I collaborated with a local Đa Lạc Viên Evergreen Adult Day Care Center, to set up hot, delicious VietNamese-cuisine “Meals-On-Wheels” program. For over a year, this couple has received hot meals, directly delivered to their homes, every other day. These delicious, nutritious meals allow them to be able to live independently still, in their own home.

Otherwise, they would be forced to move into an assisted or nursing home. Both are too frail and forgetful now, to cook safely for themselves. Neither one can drive anymore. They must rely on friends, community members or Lyft/Uber drivers to get them to appointments, go grocery shopping, pick up essentials at the pharmacy, or run errands etc.)

I am privileged beyond measure to provide this high-touch, life-preserving care for our revered, high-needs elders.

Amazingly, I was able to finish up and get home before 5pm, just in time to deliver the loot of 30 Bánh Bột Lộc I brought from the temple earlier that afternoon. These Hue-specialty dishes were such a meaningful addition for the family altar on the occasion of my maternal grandmother’s Đám Giỗ, aka the anniversary of her passing from this earthly life over 40 years ago.

These authentically Viet dishes (made by communal hands from our homeland of Huế, VietNam) were offered, in addition to over a dozen dishes lovingly and singularly hand-made-with-love, by my beloved maman.

Homemad-with-love vegan feast offered to honor my paternal grandmother “Ba Noi” on the anniversary of death, decades ago.

She had been cooked for two days other amazingly healthy and colorful vegan dishes in honor of her late, mother-in-law. 🙏🏼😇

This high-intensity, complex-care, high-touch medical practice is cumbersome and meticulous. I cannot see that many patients daily. Naturally, I make a fraction of the money I used to, making these housecalls compared to clinic or hospital medicine. But my intangible riches are inestimable. Perhaps the greatest gift of this high-touch housecall practice is that I finally attain (at least for one day) that ever-elusive #worklifebalance that nowadays, seem out of reach for so many burning out doctor-colleagues. #goodkarma #blessed #karmiccapital #joysofdoctoring #begood #dogood 🙏🏼💜😇☯️😋👩🏻‍⚕️⌛️📿

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On January 17, 2021, early in the COVID vaccine rollout, a local non-profit, Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation (VACF.org), spearheaded a culturally and linguistically-competent vaccine drive aimed at serving frail, disabled and debilitated elders (more than 75 years old).

In partnership with the Orange County Healthcare Agency (OCHCA) and dedicated Viet-American doctors, pharmacists and dozens of do-gooder-volunteers, VACF hosted this high-touch community health event at “Freedom Hall” in Mile Square Park, Fountain Valley, California.

On a warm 82F, January California-sunny Sunday, the greatest “freedom” of all, during this global epidemic, is to be free from a life-threatening, omnipresent, infectious Coronavirus. The venue is a refurbished airplane hanger, that is both capacious and well-aerated to protected the elders from the contracting airborne virus; meanwhile sheltering them from the beating sun. Being able to open all the 3 sides of the open doorways, also allowed for ample social distancing, to ensure the well-being of vaccinees, volunteers and daughter-drivers-doctors like Dr. Mai-Phuong (me)!

I am so proud of our community, and so immeasurably grateful for this opportunity to ensure my debilitated dad could get in/out in under an hour. (Even walking 200 meters from Parking Lot E, across to Freedom Hall), with his front wheel walker, was very difficult for dad. A former Special Forces military man during the Vietnam-American War over 45 years ago, dad is fiercely independen. Thus, he would never admit how hard it was for him to walk that short distance.

Dad’s young-at-heart attitude is full of joie d’vivre. But truth be told, his aged, coronary bypassed heart would not be able to negotiate the long lines at COVAX super sites like the ones at Disneyland or at the local fire stations.

To give you perspective, two weeks ago, when I queued up at the local Fire Station in Huntington Beach for COVID vaccines for firstline-responder-healthcare doctors like me, it took under 3 hours to get through the lines. On that cold, damp and wet winter morning, early on in the county-wide rollout, the organizers were still figuring out their protocols. The extremely long wait, was due to them trying to still figure out how to handle the extremely fragile mRNA Moderna-Pfizer new vaccines.

Today, my parents had a 12:30pm appointment and were done by 1:30pm. Both my English and French-fluent trilingual parents were attended to, by bilingual, sweet youth volunteers at the first “ghi danh” (or registration) station. At this stop, the tech-savvy, young VACF volunteers attended to the anxiety-provoking task of navigating the Othena.com app. They had previously, pre-gistered elders like my parents who signed up for this VACF vaccine drive by filling out a Google Doc waitlist. VACF staff have been working tirelessly for the last 2 weeks, to coordinate and orchestrate today’s inaugural COVID vaccine community drive.

For me (a multi-lingual geriatric and home-based internal medicine expert), it’s inconceivable to fathom how a monoligual elder (with potential disabilities and/or cognitive impairments) would be able to overcome this digital barrier, and sign up for Othena.com app. Without the cautious aid of VACF, it’s clear to me that other Limited English speaking elders could get passed the registration part. Even though I understand the need to register and track carefully for the County and national public health agencies to track those vaccinated, for potential adverse events, and to study the behavior of COVID in the future.

Such a huge countywide registry is necessary to collect (and later analyze) population health big data on things such as adverse reactions and dosing accountability for these brand new state-of-the-art vaccines. Within 4 weeks, all these elders who today received the Moderna vaccines, need to be called back for their second dose.

Thus, such data needs to be collected to repeat this process all over again for the second dose of the 2-step COVAX. After registration station, my beloved parents were gently escorted to the next station 2 for their actual vaccination. After checking their IDs, both mom and dad were quickly and skillfully inoculated by seasoned clinicians, a young Vietnamese American pharmacist and a more seasoned one, supervising.

Finally, we were escorted to the third and final station for observation of potential allergic reactions. Here, they sat comfortably, 6 feet part for 15 minutes to make sure they did not develop any “adverse reactions.” Allergic reactions include hives, itching and most worrisome: shortness of breath and mental status changes due to anaphylaxis. Each step of the way, my parents were ushered and cared for delicately, to ensure they knew where to go next. Volunteer escorts were on hand, ready to spot them, so as they would not literally (and figuratively) suffer any missteps upon the smooth laminate floored venue.

Throughout Freedom Hall, I was so moved to see so many other 75+ elders with variable abilities—many using canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. All of them were equally and kindly attended to, (as my parents), by the organizers! ❤️ Afterwards, my parents each scored a “care package,” with nutritious and delicious treats like a red apple, Cliff bars, healthy snacks, and a water bottle. They also got VACF volunteer, handmade-with-love, three-layered cloth face coverings, as per World Health Organization standards!

My parents also received flyers with useful information about COVID infections, and of course, information about cancer screening and prevention such as for breast, liver and cervical cancers. These are cancers, prevalent among Viet-Americans)!! 🙏🏽🌸😷

GO, VACF: “Education IS empowerment!” It takes decades to cultivate THIS level of #commUNITY immunity, capacity-building and trust. We all owe a huge debt of profound gratitude, to these #VACFSocal hometown #sheroes! 🙏🏽🌸👏🏽 Namaste.

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Fountain Valley, CA (12/16/16)  When I was 6 years old, we fled our war-torn homeland of Vietnam. 1975 was a symbolic and landmark year in our lives. My first Christmas in the USA, I vaguely remember entering first grade, not knowing a single word of English. That was 41 years ago. It was a blur … of wonderment, angst, confusion, with just a dollop of fear and a profoundly, deep sense of gratitude.

In the face of the immense chaos of such severe childhood displacement and trauma, I only felt ‘a little afraid’ when I entered first grade. This, I remember clearly. That’s because despite the tumultuous fleeing out of a Saigon in flames; Despite migrating and living in Tent City on the tropical island of Guam for a few months under blistering hot tents; despite eventually moving into the refugee camps in Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania, I don’t really ever remember being ‘that afraid.’ In hindsight, I think back then I wasn’t allowed to be afraid because there was too much ‘excitement’ in trying to get to the ‘next stage’ of our journey to make it to first grade!

I also don’t think I had the chance to feel afraid because I always felt ‘safe,’ enveloped in the immense love and unshakable courage and strength of my parents. Along with being surrounded by extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles who fled along with us en masse, we were literally #StrongerTogether. More amazing was that at every turn in this circuitous journey to arrive at First Grade, I encountered profound generosity from complete strangers: be they navy officers on the U.S.S. Midway in the Philippines, to the men and women in the military who ran Tent City in Guam, all I remember in retrospect, was the intense KINDNESS of the folks who enabled us to finally arrive to America.

When we got to Pennsylvania in the late fall of 1975, the churches and complete strangers took our refugee family 6-pack into their homes and into their communities. They were nothing short of unconditionally loving in helping my parents renovate, paint, refurbish a one hundred year old Victorian style duplex, they showered us with incredibly generous Christmas gifts in brightly colored wrapping paper. They bought us our first fresh pine Christmas true. They clothed us, and welcomed us into their new society. Within a few months, they helped my parents get on our feet, and found jobs for both my parents, albeit low-wage jobs well below their capacities as college educated bourgeoisie from French schools in Đà Lạt.

Even so young, I understood I was very, very lucky–to have escaped something horrific back ‘HOME,” halfway across the globe, on the other side of the massive Pacific Ocean that we had to cross on big and little ships, on a complicated, blurry sort of journey.


Nam-Uy and Camilla get ready to decorate their gingerbread houses.

This year in 2016, my son Nam-Uy turned 6 years old. Around the world, there remains such intense human turmoil from Aleppo, Syria, to the Rohingyas in Burma. Similar to our family, children of war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq–countries the US once again had a hand in creating ‘war zones’ for over a decade–continue to face similar displacements and seek refuge in second/third asylum countries.
Here at “home” in the USA, we continue to be under a constant state of domestic turmoil: with Black Lives Matter fighting to matter, People of Color dying at alarmingly disproportionate rates due to gun violence, gangs or simply, because there remains such racial and ethnic disparities in accessing quality, affordable healthcare. For the first time ever, our great nation elected a new President, who strikes more fear and discord in the universe. For over 18 months, he has said and done things on public television and social media which are embarrassing and vulgar. He has proved time and again, to be a public figure exemplifying horrible human behavior and inhumane psychopathology–behaviors and words that we parents MUST work harder to protect our children from, and to counter-explain.
The ONE saving grace this year has been Nam-Uy’s amazing school, in this sleepy bedroom community “behind the Orange Curtain” of Orange County, California. And within this unassuming yet distinguished public elementary school, there is a even MORE amazing first grade teacher: Mr. Plummer. A ‘magician’ in his own right, Mr. Plummer creates a classroom filled with ‘order,’ love, wonderment and joy. He excites every child to optimize his/her imagination and he challenges them to rise to “Be their BEST!”

Mr. Plummer commands his students' attention to give them directions on gingerbread house decorations.

Mr. Plummer commands his students’ attention to give them directions on gingerbread house decorations.

Mr. Plummer is a second generation first grade teacher who learned from the BEST: his mother. Mrs. Plummer (senior) is a retired second grade teacher who now volunteers in her son’s class. She in turn provides infinite love, wisdom and attention to our school kids, collaborating with the son she helped raise to become an sought-after teacher.

Every time I step into the mother-son Plummer’s classroom, I am transported to a ‘SAFE ZONE’ and a safe sanctuary where No Child is Left Behind. There is no doubt the Plummers together, have created this drought-resistant ‘bubble’ that could withstand a magnitude 6.0 Earthquake, that would otherwise tear up the San Andreas faultline.

In this uncertain world we live in today, the one thing I know for sure, is that Hometown Heroes like Mr. Plummer and his mother–along with the platoon of teachers and administrators at our local school, are the BEST defenders of this great democracy. For they are teaching and cultivating the BEST future citizens of this planet by role modeling and motivating our kiddos to try their best.

Teaching and modeling LOVE, HOPE, PEACE and KINDNESS with their every word and actions, we parents are forever grateful for all that they do daily, to instill the best in our kids.

From Mr. Plummer’s 1st grade class to your homes, PEACE be with you! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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APIA DM risks by ethnicity




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(July 28, 2016 – Little Saigon, Orange County, CA)  The day after President Barak Obama (aka POTUS-BO) gave an historical bookend speech at the DNC2016, I had these comments to share on my FB page.  I thought it worth repeating and sharing here, for a larger audience.

‪#‎TFT‬  (ThankFull Thursday)  Let us pray: and give thanks to our magnificently brilliant President Barak Obama whose DNC2016 convention speech serves as a perfect and historic bookend to his DNC2004 “breakout” speech.

Let us heed his wise and urgent words to heart: to give thanks for the sacrifices of our forefathers (and mothers) and our current day elders for passing onto us, this enduring legacy of “America: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave!”
For all of us (who are not Native Americans), at some point in our family lineage, we came to this great nation of immigrants from another country in search of something “better”… Be it escaping bombed homelands, famine, political, religious persecution.
Or simply, because in our native lands, we couldn’t fathom a “better future” for our children. Those of us who made gut-wrenching decisions to leave our beloved birth countries, do so with conviction, commitment and resolve to work hard, do whatever is necessary to survive, with profound #Hope and #Faith that we will succeed.  This was what POTUS-BO was talking about last night.
Today, I share with you these photos of #MaiBelovedPapaSon–a man I love more than life and yes, more than #POTUS-BO. Both of these iconic men have served as ‘father figures’ to me and to many countless other people in this country (and around the globe).  Both have dedicated their lives to service and to raise “UP!” our ethnic communities in need.

SVN Chairman's Council at the Chevy Chase, MD NYL General Office in 1976

Son Văn Nguyễn’s promotional photo in 1976.  Literally, 1 year fresh of the boat, he was the top agent for his local office.  For the next 40 years, he would be the #1 VietnAmerican salesman nationwide for this U.S. Fortune 500 life insurance company, selling first-world investment products to families freshly immigrated from a war-torn developing country.

In a split second decision, Papa Son resolved to flee his ancestral homeland in April, 1975 when there was clear and imminent danger that the Việt Cộng (communists) would be victorious. Because in his soul, he knew he could never live under oppressive tyranny. He knew he had to be free–even if it meant losing everything, including his life and that of his wife and four young children.

Forty one years later, earlier this week, the top Senior Vice President (SVP) of his beloved company for which he has served as the “Model Minority” Refugee-Immigrant-American success story, came all the way from their NYC Home Office of New York Life (NYL), to bequeath to Papa Son this plaque and honor him, “For 40 Years of Service.” This plaque will travel back to the NYC Home Office, where it will hang on their “Wall of Fame,” honoring iconic NYL Life-Time Achievers!

SVN_receiving NYL 40 years' Lifetime Achievement Award_7.26.16

Pictured here with Papa Son is Italian-American SVP, Sal Farina who, at the peak of his illustrious career at NYL, managed over 600 agents in their 100,000 sq. foot Long Island, NY General Office.

For over 4 decades, my courageous and committed father was more than a top seller nationwide for a flagship company that’s almost 200 years old, in this relatively “young” Nation that’s not even seen its tricentennial birthday. Dad served his company by breaking sales records in our post-1975, refugee-immigrant, poor Diasporic Việt communities nationwide. These refugee communities suffered unspeakable racism and anti-immigrant sentiments during those trying years after that “shameful War.”

After achieving his phenomenal success back East while headquartered at the Chevy Chase, MD General Office (G.O.), Papa Son dared to travel West, to audaciously chase his “California Dream.” His vision was to boldly go where there were enclaves of new Vietnamese refugee communities, to help NYL recruit and mentor dozens of Vietnamese agents and trail-blaze culturally-competent marketing throughout the country.

He enabled his NYL company to better understand our complex, bipolar VietnAmericanese, war-torn history, psychology and culture, in order to better serve the financial needs of our VietnAmerican families and communities. Meanwhile, he invested, his heart, time, passion and compassion to identify, mentor and empower younger, new agents as well as educate our Little Saigonnaise via ethnic media.

At first, in the 1980s, he began by helping his good friends and founding editors at the premier Vietnamese language newspaper in the Diaspora, Báo Người Việt, improve their content, business marketing and outreach. (Back in Vietnam, right before the Fall of Saigon, Papa Son served as a translator for the South Vietnamese President’s press secretary. His job was to read the breaking news coming across the teletype from Reuters, Associated Press, etc and translate them from English and French into Vietnamese.)

In this 21st century, he then graduated to Viet-language radio. Today, he heads Viet California Radio (VNCR, 106.3FM) which reaches hundreds of thousands of listeners from LA, Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties. On VNCR, he has for almost a decade, pioneered linguistically-competent outreach to help empower monolingual and Limited English Proficient (LEP) Việt listeners on how to improve their net worth and savings through investing in insurance and annuities products. His weekly half hour finances and insurance/variety radio show draws thousands of avid fans in our Southland. Through this powerful radio medium, he shares his worldly, transnational, inter-generational wisdom about news, current events, entertainment, sports–especially “Tennis & Life”–wherein he somehow, cleverly weaves a “teachable NYL moment” within those 30 minutes.

Papa Son has since passed this legacy of hard work, diligence,#Faith #Hope, culturally-competent marketing and multi-media outreach onto all his four adult children (now in our mid and late 40s). By 2005, my eldest brother dethroned my father as the top sales Vietnamese sales agent in the country. Meanwhile, my older sister serves this Fortune 500 company as a leading sales manager here in the same Orange Coast General Office.

SVN_NYL Team 40 yrs Award_7.26.16

(From left to right): Hồng Phạm, SVN’s business partner, also a top NYL sales agent for over 25 yrs; NYL former SVP fr. NYC, Sal Farina; SVN, the Man of Honor; Chris Prudhomme (NYL General Mgr of OC G.O., French-American, born in N’Awlins, LA; Gigi Mai-Khanh Nguyễn (SVN’s daughter, now a NYL sales mgr at O.C.-G.O.); and Châu (NYC-based NYL Ethnic Marketing Specialist who’s also a SVN mentee)

I share my father’s story partly because I am ever so proud of all that he has accomplished, given, paid forward, to build ‪#‎OurLittleSaigons‬ (in the Metro DC/VA/MD, Boston, Florida’s pan-handle, Houston, San Jose and here in our OC areas) since 1976. But more so, because his story is an example of what refugee-immigrant-American “exceptionalism” can look like.

THIS is the America we can be proud of and continue to build upon for posterity. A nation, that is “united, under God,” indivisible by demagogues and narcissists… And one that is made great(er) by the “diverse, decent, generous, industrious, thoughtful, innovative” folks who come from all over the world bringing their uniquely ethnic #Hope and #Faith to contribute to our collective “greatness.”

It is this honorable (“not-as-yet” perfect) Union that opened its compassionate arms to my family 6-pack of post-war refugees and gave us limitless opportunities, in one single generation. ‪#‎RefugeesWelcome‬

This November, ‪#‎IamwithHER‬… to break ALL the glass (and bamboo) ceilings for ALL our children, moving ‪#‎Forward‬! Let’s roll up our sleeves and continue this important work of nation-building and raising UP! our communities in need.


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#Mai beloved President Obama,

This Memorial Day 2016: on the 30th day of the Month of May, we as a nation, take pause to honor the men and women who served in the military to protect our country’s freedoms and democratic way of life.  But for us refugee immigrants (who fled war, violence and tyranny), we are acutely aware of the ultimate price of ‘freedom’ because we, at some point in our lives, were also willing to pay with our lives, to be free, in order to live with dignity.

Also in the month of May, we celebrate Asian-Pacific-Islander-American Heritage Month (#APIAHM), as well as raise Mental Health Awareness (#APIAMHAM).   Specific to our soldiers as well as to the refugee survivors of war, we are alerted to the immense impact that not only fighting the wars–but surviving its collateral damages afterwards–have specific impact on our personal and our collective ethnic communities’ mental health.

Within the monumental context of your recent historic trips back to my birth homeland of Việt Nam AND then to Hiroshima, Japan to ‘bury the relics the Cold War and World War II” of the 20th century, there is so much to comment on the State of our API-America (APIA) as part of this great Union.  While there is no doubt that vast #Hope and #Faith that #Change has come to Asia-Pacific-Islander America and to Vietnam since the end of the VietnAmerican War, the harsh reality is that we have yet, a far ways to go.

In this open letter to you, I want to reflect on the events of the last 2 months, as well as put out a challenge to you: to remain ever-vigilant in protecting our precious freedoms of speech and expression.  Just as you encouraged the Việt youth in my native Vietnam, on the world stage, I need you to support Asian-American and Ethnic Studies here, in our multi-cultural America and propel us #Forward, here at home!

For this is how I will be able to explain to my six year-old, American-born son, (when he comes of age) the gravity of these sweeping changes that have occurred in the last forty-one years.  Over four decades ago when the Vietnamese communist tanks rolled into Saigon, I will tell him of how his mother at his same age of six years old  (along with her parents’ family six-pack and over 125,000 Vietnamese refugees, involved with the losing Nationalist government of South Vietnam) were sent fleeing, into the Diaspora with the U.S. military’s evacuation called Operation Frequent Wind on April 29, 1975.

How do we as bipolar Vietnamese-Americans reconcile our vast pride that you, our beloved 21st century, mixed-race American President of the United States (#POTUS) Obama had the #audacity to come make peace in May 2016, bringing his special brand of #Hope and #Change to nudge our current-day repressive, communist birth country of VietNam to move #Forward?

It will help me to explain this to my boy, by referencing your beat-box with 26 year old transnationalized female Việt rapper, Suboi, in Ho Chí Minh City on May 25, 2016. Here, once again, you proved that you can continually keep #Hope alive by reminding the Việt young folks in that faraway town hall that by insisting for fundamental freedoms of speech and artistic expression of artists and the press to flourish, they can #BeTheChange agents to transform their government to becoming a stronger, civil(ized) society.

Years from now, when my 6 years-old son grows up to be a man, I will surely replay for him Suboi’s bilingual beatbox rap to you (she was the last YSEALI to pose a question at minute 57:57):

“As artists, we have a lot to say.  I want to know how important it is for a nation to really help and promote their art and culture, to help [our] nation in the future.” 



Your profound impromptu response remains equally inspiring (at minute 1:00:04):

“Artistic expression is important: Music, poetry, representations of life as it is, and how it should be…those are things that inspire people.  The most important thing about art is that it teaches you , and puts you in the head of other people so that you start realizing about someone else’s pain, or someone else’s hopes.  You start realizing that we have more in common…

If you listen to a Vietnamese [woman’s] rap, it may connect to how I am feeling… and now, I feel closer to another country on the other side of the world.  And that’s how we end up coming together, to build a better future together, for each other…  

But look.  Let’s be honest.  Sometimes art is dangerous though.  And that’s why governments get nervous about art.  But one of the things I truly believe that if you try to suppress the arts, you suppress the deepest dreams and aspirations of a people.  One of the greatest things about the U.S. is–for all our flaws in a lot of areas–we do give opportunities for greater expression… And something like rap, that started off as an expression of poor, African-Americans, has become a global phenomenon, and the art form of young people around the world today…

You gotta let people express themselves!  That’s part of what a modern, 21st century culture is all about.”

And so just as we Americans experienced in 2008 and again, in 2012 (when you won both your epic, historic elections), #Obamania has swept through Hanoi and HCMC.  How do I know?  Because in both those historic years, I took time out of my full-time private medical practice, caught red-eye flights from the OC to our nation’s Capitol after a long day’s work attending patients.  I managed to negotiate the massive crowds from the airport, to the DC subway and arrived.  I arrived in the nick of time on the National Mall, to congregate with millions of fellow Americans (from all walks of life, every ethnicity and across the age-spectrum) to watch you take your sacred oath of office.

NUyYo Inauguration_1.21.13

Two dedicated moms: Dr. Mai-Phương (and her 2 year old boy, Nam-Uy, from Napa, CA), and Portia (with her 16 y/o son, AJ, from Atlanta, GA) shared a 45 minute tuna-can-packed metro subway ride, walked 1 hour along Independence Avenue, from the subway onto the National Mall, enduring blistering cold weather, to bear witness to the Obamas’ 2nd inauguration.


Both times, I witnessed first hand and participated in that tide of ebullient fellowship, overflowing with #Hope #Faith for #Change.  And so today, once your “magic dust” settles across my former homeland, and upon your return to the White House across the oceans, I want to  bring us back to the state of our Union, here in API-America in 2016.

Whereupon, on May 22, 2016, my 6 year old son graduated from his first year of the equivalent of Vietnamese Sunday school kindergarten at the local Trung Tâm Văn Hóa Việt Nam (Center for Vietnamese Culture) in the heart of Little Saigon, in Orange County, California.

TTVHVN_Le Be Giang_5.22.16

At said ceremony in the gymnasium of Warner Middle School in Westminster, California, the dignitaries that came to speak were Westminster Vice-Mayor, Sergio Contreras, and Westminster School Board Member, Jamison Power.  Both greeted the audience of about 500 parents and families in Vietnamese. In the case of Vice-Mayor Contreras (who is of Mexican descent), he spoke in full sentences, with proper Việt diction and (5 tonal) diacritics–such that if I closed my eyes, I would not have known that he was NOT a native Việt speaker!

As a first generation child refugee, now a middle-aged parent of a toddler, I cannot express to you the depth of my gratitude for the life that my son now has, as an American-born Vietnamese, growing up in a much more nuanced and multi-culturally cognizant America. THIS is indeed progress!  Through the massive sacrifices of his grandparents, who boldly and unflinchingly suffered anything and everything thrown their way, as refugee immigrants in 1975, to behold that magnificent ceremony at Warner Middle School, with our culturally and linguistically-competent local leaders was beyond my imagination.

Forty one years ago, there were no such Sunday school Vietnamese language programs when I was growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, in a new final asylum country.  America in the late 1970s was in many ways, an exceedingly generous country.  However, in other ways, America was a hurtful, hateful country whose traumatized, fearful Eurocentric mainstream Americans treated us new refugee immigrants from a former ‘enemy’ country, in less-than-kindly manners.

So today, in commemoration of Memorial Day 2016, I want to bring to your awareness the state of Asian-American and Ethnic Studies here, in the USA.  I trust you are keenly aware of the “bamboo ceiling” that still exists throughout our country.  That is due to the terribly dangerous “Asian-Model Minority Myth” (i.e. the faulty notion that “all Asian-Americans do better in the USA,” compared to other marginalized or disadvantaged, ethnic minorities like Black, Latino and Native Americans).  Because of this Model-Minority Myth,we API-Americans, have limited employment promotions and leadership opportunities.  We refuse to be “the wedge” that divides our beautiful mosaic, as a nation of immigrants.

This “bamboo ceiling” is ever more prevalent among API-Americans in academia. Currently, there is a groundswell of student activism across the nation in protests against the incredible institutionalized racism that is preventing the proper establishment, funding and maintenance of Asian-American/Ethnic Studies programs.

At elite Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Brown, there are high-profile lawsuits being filed over race-conscious Anti-Affirmative Action complaints. Similarly, in public colleges educating young people from lower-income or more disadvantaged socio-economic strata such as City University of New York (CUNY) and Hunter College in NYC, the students are learning efficacious, modern ways of community-organizing.  They are mobilizing fellow students, faculty and communities at large.  They are also waging sophisticated, inter-collegiate social media campaigns using contemporary tools like Twitter, FB and Skype-conferencing “To Fight the Tower!” This proverbial “Tower” historically then and now, continues to deny them (and all of us) access to Asian-American and Ethnic Studies as well as deny highly qualified Asian-American professors tenure.

So in similar vein, as you have encouraged on the world stage in Vietnam last week: Calling upon young people, aspiring leaders and artists (such as Suboi) alike, to stay vigilant and speak their minds, and push through the fears of being incarcerated, beaten and tortured, to continue creating their art.  I am asking for your continued, vigilant support of the plight of students in America who yearn for diverse and culturally-competent higher education.

I hope you will hold accountable, the powers that be, to end the covert and overt institutionalized racism that continues in our America.  I trust by now, you are aware that well-qualified and widely popular scholars like Dr. Aimee Bahng of Dartmouth College, are being denied tenure by her department chairs and promotions committees, despite meeting all the rigorous requisites of her English and American Studies departments.

And lastly, I want to leave you with the inspiration of dedicated, young Filipino-American leaders like California State University Fullerton, Class of 2016 cum laude Titan, Anthony James Villanueva.  In his moving graduation speech on May 21, 2016, Anthony spoke from the heart and gave a compelling testimonial to the import, urgency and value of Asian-American/Ethnic Studies.



At minute 5:59: Anthony profoundly confesses,

“Ethnic Studies taught me to love–the person to my right and left; love for those who’ve come before us; and love for the folks in the very same seats that we are in today.”

To paraphrase, Anthony attributes Ethnic Studies to helping him 1) discover his family’s cultural history and roots, 2) find his voice and his life’s purpose meanwhile challenging him to give back by #PayingItForward through mentorship at the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA).  Throughout his speech, he credits his CSUF faculty adviser and mentor, Dr. Tú-Uyên Nguyễn, MPH, PhD, for challenging him and nudging him towards finding his true calling to serve (“always with a plate of food in hand, in true APIA fashion”).

The irony is Dr. Tú-Uyên Nguyễn and I were student activists at UCI-Irvine in the 1990s. There, we tested our mettle and learned community organizing skills through our refugee advocacy with an idealistic organization called Project Ngọc, during the height of the Vietnamese Boat People crisis.  This was during a time when compassion fatigue had set-in, and the world wanted to close the refugees camps and repatriate the Vietnamese back to the terrifying homeland they risked everything to flee.

I served as Project Ngọc’s Co-Chair from 1989-1991. (Back then, I could barely string sentences together in my mother tongue.)  Dr. Tú-Uyên joined Project Ngoc two years later.  The summer after her freshman year, she served on a Project Ngọc fact-finding mission throughout the SE Asian refugee camps, collecting valuable information about the impact of the overcrowded, dilapidated camps on unaccompanied minors.  Back in those days, Asian-American and Ethnic Studies did not exist at UCI.

Through galvanizing student protests (via letter writing campaigns, sit-ins, hunger strikes, civil disobedience, etc.) locally, nationally and internationally, we successfully fought for the establishment of Asian-American and Ethnic Studies at UCI for posterity. Also through these leadership-building activities, we found our voices, our missions and our paths to serve. These precious, life-changing student organizing and leadership-building engagements changed the trajectory of our personal and professional lives.

In fact, these very activities are rooted in the origins of Ethnic Studies which mushroomed during the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movements. Today, there is a robust Asian-American Studies program and a world-class Orange County SE Asian Archives (OC-SEAA) at our alma mater, UCI.  The growth of both the Asian-Am programs and the OC-SEAA was in large part due to the fierce work we students accomplished together, almost three decades earlier.  In more contemporary times, the UCI-Asian-Am/Ethnic Studies departments have grown in leaps and bounds, thanks to the tireless leadership of academic-warriors like Professor Linda Trinh Võ, PhD. Through skillful grassroots, community-based organizing and negotiating “The Tower,” Professor Võ garnered her milestone, full professorship in 2016.

In Việt-Am culture, there is a deep-rooted concept of “duyên” or karmic connectivity.   (Whereas, American culture would perhaps label it as happenstance “irony.”)  Ironically, or karmically, Dr. Võ also just recently stepped down as AAAS’ immediate past president. At their Annual AAAS Awards Reception, Dr. Võ eloquently commented on April 30, 2016, (exactly 41 years after Saigon fell) that it was nothing short of a miracle: that a little girl born in war-torn, rural Vietnam would grow up in America, to fulfill her life’s dream and mission.  She became a scholar and was privileged to serve as the president of the national Association of Asian-American Studies.

Dr. Linda Trinh Võ addressing AAAS national conference in Miami

Prof. Linda Trinh Võ, PhD addressing AAAS national conference in Miami

Also karmically (or ironically), at said AAAS conference in Miami, I would meet Anthony James Villanueva and many other brave Asian-American students throughout the nation who are leading the way to a “more perfect Union” — one in which there will be Asian-American/Ethnic Studies departments that are fully funded and adequately staffed by qualified professors who can teach them culturally-competent, relevant ethnic histories.  Histories and lessons yet to be learned from the legacies of Hiroshima, the VietnAmerican War, Boat People refugees exoduses of yesteryear and today, human rights violations, etc.

Because by learning their relevant past and contemporary histories, they will garner key tools and skills they will need to discover themselves, gain self-confidence, become empathetic and responsible leaders, and find their true purposes in life.

For indeed this is the prescriptive our nation needs, to battle the bi-model overwhelming statistics of depression, anxiety, PTSD running rampant among 2 subsets of Asian-Pacific Islander American communities at highest risks for suicide: the youth from 15-24 years of age and elderly women older than 65 years. #APIAMentalHealthAwarenessMonth.

And “How? you ask, do I know these facts to be true?”  I speak with authority because, firstly, I was among the first group of victims of the APIA Model-Minority mythic youth from 22 to 45 years of age, who struggled for over twenty years with severe bouts of  chronic depression, anxiety and suicide.  I also endured decades long culturally-inappropriate, albeit well-intended mental healthcare, as a result of my childhood (compounded with my young adulthood) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being unrecognized and un-diagnosed.

Secondly, because now as a recovered, healthy physician who specializes in care for seniors,  I attend to mostly aging APIA elders.  In particular, I work with Vietnamese-Americans in Little Saigon, Orange County, who suffer rampant ravages (and as we say in this business) “collateral damage” of remote war and unresolved trauma.


UCI-contingency attending AAAS on April 29, 2016 (from left to right): commissioned artist Trinh Mai for UCI-VAOHP’s (40th Anniversary of Fall of Saigon) 2015 Viet-fOCus (#IamOC) Art Exhibit;  Thúy Võ-Đặng, PhD aka OC-SEAA archivist; Tú-Uyên Nguyễn, PhD, MPH, professor of CSUF Asian-Am Studies; Trâm Lê, Project Director of UCI’s Vietnamese American Oral History Project (VAOHP); Emmy winning filmmaker Đức Nguyễn; and Mai-Phương Nguyễn, MD, minority healthcare advocate.


On this Memorial Day 2016, Mr. President, we stand united with you, to pay tribute to all those who have served, sacrificed, passed away and/or passed onto us this ever precious family heirloom pearl (aka ngọc), worth dying for, called democracy.  “Let Freedom ring!”


Mai-Phương T. Nguyễn, MD

  • Former Vice-Chair of the California Medical Association’s Ethnic Medical Organization Section (CMA/EMOS), 2008-2009
  • Associate Producer of award-winning documentary films, Bolinao 52 (2009 Emmy winner) and Stateless 
  • UC-Irvine, Class of May, 1991; USC-School of Medicine May, 1995– survivor of Operation Frequent Wind (April 29, 1975) and the LA Riots (April 29, 1992)
  • Founder, CEO and Doctor-preneur of http://www.Karuna-Healthcare.com

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The founding team of Karuna Healthcare Consultants, Inc. is comprised of three highly trained clinicians, who fled a war-torn homeland of Việt Nam as children after 1975.  All three health experts have since grown up to make their common life’s mission: the promotion of health, wellness and peace.


The Karuna Healthcare Consultants Team

DR. JACOB DUY-LINH HUỲNH, M.D. comes from a large family of seven siblings.  His older siblings tried unsuccessfully several times for over a decade to flee as Boat People in the 1980-90s. His older sister, Kim, eventually survived her refugee journey and ended up in Toronto, Canada.

Later, she was able to sponsor Dr. Jacob when he was 17 years old to reunite with her family in Canada.  He finished high school and entered college at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.  He then trained as a Family Medicine Doctor, garnering a few scholarships, at Queen’s University in the efficient, Canadian nationalized healthcare system.  There, he learned that ‘healthcare for all’ was not only feasible, but morally essential.  He practiced in Canada for 10 years before immigrating to Southern California in 2010, to warmer climes and to join other siblings.


In his own words, Dr. Jacob shares, “Growing up in Vietnam, I always wanted to become a physician since grade school.  Especially in poor developing countries like ours, I saw the vast needs of our people. I wanted to make a difference and improve patients’ well-being.

I chose Family Medicine because I enjoy taking care of not only individuals, but of the entire family: from babies to grandmas.  I further went on, to get certified in Medical Acupuncture to expand my skillsets to more adequately care for patients suffering from intractable or chronic pain syndromes–conditions for which Western medicine does not always have effective remedies.”

Nowadays, Dr. Jacob works full-time as a Team Leader for Vitas Innovative Hospice (www.Vitas.com), the national industry leader in hospice and palliative care for terminally ill patients.

Additionally, he also has a small private practice in Little Saigon-Orange County where he sees patients and provides holistic care at Advanced Health & Wellness Center (located at 7901 Westminster Boulevard, Westminster, CA 92683).  For appointments, please call 714.869.8146.

Dr. Jacob is also a member of the Karuna Healthcare Consultants (KHC) Team because he believes that patients and families deserve “compassionate, conscientious and culturally-sensitive care.”

Being a devout Catholic who has studied Zen Buddhism for decades and who also practices mindfulness, he is guided by these spiritual traditions in the care of very complex, terminally ill and/or elderly patients.  For all the patients who are lucky to have Dr. Jacob attend to them, their children, parents, and/or grandparents, they can attest to the profound “karuna” (aka unconditional, compassionate care) that he brings to the art of healing.  For karuna is the hallmark of this exemplary physician-healer’s reputation and daily practice.

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Meet the third and vital member of Karuna Healthcare Consultants, Inc. (aka‪ #‎TeamKHC‬): DR. TONY THỤY V. NGUYỄN, PharmD.


Dr. Tony-Thụy is an extraordinarily dedicated, meticulous pharmacist who owns and operates one of the best-run private compound pharmacies in Irvine, California called VALUE RX PHARMACY.

Previously in January, I detailed his incredible journey to America. Growing up in Communist Vietnam, Thụy and his younger brother were forbidden from formal public or private schooling because they were caught in 3rd grade trying unsuccessfully to flee a repressive Vietnam. Being a convicted “Boat Person” was considered a treasonous act. As a result. they were punished and banished from formal education. Instead, they were home-schooled by their mother, a teacher.

Coming to California later in life, as a junior in high school, he wasted no time to master the English language. He hit the ground running and within 2 years, was admitted to UC-Irvine and graduated promptly in 4 years.

He then managed to get accepted to the prestigious University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Pharmacy. After becoming a licensed pharmacist, he went onto manage several commercial pharmacies including Walgreen’s and Target, meanwhile working the night shifts at inpatient pharmacies for several hospitals in Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

Within a short time, he was able to open his own private Value Rx Pharmacy in Irvine. In just a few years, he transformed his family business into a state-of-the-art operation, capable of delivering any e-prescription within 3 hours of receiving the eRx to patients’ preferred homes and/or workplaces throughout Orange County and parts of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire!

Dr. Tony Thụy Nguyễn is able to compete with all the other mega-chain pharmacies because he puts “Value” into everything he does, paying astute attention to the devilish details and providing personalized care. He has devised an efficacious way to bubble pack medication regimens, especially designed for the vulnerable, complicated senior with poly-pharmacy regimens to improve their compliance and care, meanwhile decreasing medication errors.

Look up his Yelp reviews: they are impeccable:http://www.yelp.com/biz/value-rx-pharmacy-irvine.

More amazing is his servant’s heart. Aside from serving a high-end and/or high-maintenance clientele, for over 6 years, he also served on the Board for the non-profit Nhân Hòa Community Health Center. Nhân Hòa is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that attends to under-served, immigrant (predominantly Asian Pacific Islander new American) communities, based in Garden Grove, California.

His other passions include basketball and raising his two young sons. Despite his intensely busy work schedule, he always carves out time for his sons’ basketball practices and games. Additionally, he plays intramural basketball weekly with his company’s team!

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Dr. Tony-Thụy lives with and attends to his elderly mother, now a widower who is a devout Buddhist and vegan.

#TeamKHC is so honored and proud to have Dr. Tony Thụy Nguyên as an integral part of our innovative healthcare team. Together, we are transforming how medicine will be personalized, while delivering the 5 Cs: “Compassionate, Conscientious, and Culturally-Competent Care.”

You can reach Dr. Tony Thụy at his Value Rx Pharmacy in Irvine at 22 Odyssey, Suite 135, Telephone: (949) 387-1133.

Beginning on 3/15/16, you can “see” Dr. Tony-Thụy Nguyễn virtually on KHC’s new website when we debut: www.Karuna-Healthcare.com!

Photos courtesy of Tanya Nga Trương (aka T.N.T. Photography).



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Meet Dr. Mai-Phương T. Nguyễn, M.D.


Dr. Mai-Phương Nguyễn, Spring 2016

She is a lover of many things: chief among those are family, friends, food, stories and story-telling (in descending order). She actually is an avid traveler for the sheer purposes of finding new foods, related family and fascinating stories.

She is self-described as a “Tortilla:” ‘Yellow’ on the outside and to her core, her “alma” (soul) is “Chicana/Mexicana/Latina” such that she is spicy, her feet itch to dance to the Afro-Cuban beat of “La Vida Loca” and she mindfully savors the diverse flavors, music and zest of life! “Joie d’vivre” is in her familial genes.

By the way, tortillas are made from ground maíz … a staple in most indigenous cultures. When she graduated from UC-Irvine in 1991 (with a major in biology and a minor in Spanish Literatura), Mai-Phương volunteered to go to Pululagua, Ecuador to build latrines for the summer, under the auspices of the student leadership organization, Amigos de las Americas.  That’s where she first saw maíz grown in the Andes Mountains.  She will never forget how amazed she was by how the intimate “corn and beans” combo grew in such utter synchronicity.  Both plants symbiotically rely on each other to grow and survive the adverse conditions of  being so high in the mountains.  The beanstalks wrap and cuddle their way towards the heavens winding around the cornstalk; meanwhile, the sturdy cornstalk is deeply rooted in Mother Earth and smiles up to the skies, nurtured by the nitrogen provided by the beans.  One, without the other, would not be as strong or perhaps not even be able to live!  Ever since that idyllic summer of ’91, free from civilization as she knew it, living 15,000 feet above sea level among Ecuadorians with faces from another epoch in history, Mai-Phương has always has been in love with beans and tortillas! (Oh! But this narrator digresses…)

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A long time ago, in a land far away, she was uprooted from her birthplace: a tiny S-shaped country. Born in a time of War, Mai-Phương was blessed to be birthed in the majestic yet magical mountainside of Đà Lạt, Việt Nam. She was actually, literally born in the “Valley of Love” (aka Thùng Lũng Tình Yêu).

So even from birth, young Mai-Phương’s DNA was rooted in “Love.” And yet “Love” would be something she looked and yearned for however ethereal, however impermanent. It was this search for “Love” that took her around the world, in the most unsuspecting places and destinations. And everywhere Mai-Phương went, she would seek it: in places, faces, trees, birds, schools of fish, oceans, and mountains.

But for the longest time–as long as she could remember, that Quixotic quest for “love” always, somehow–was a bit out of reach.

So when it came time for her to decide, somewhere early in high school, (growing up in the suburbs of Metro Washington DC among international ambassadors’ and diplomats’ children) what she would pursue for her ‘life’s career,’ Mai-Phương did what every 15 year old does: she went to seek advice from her all-wise, quadlingual-wordsmith and worldly Papa Son.

When asked what did she like to do, Mai-Phương told wise Papa that she loved to write and tell stories. But she also thought she’d make a pretty good teacher because she was good at understanding complicated things and she liked helping her classmates understand those complex things. But what she enjoyed most was “helping people” and learn to speak their language. At a young age, she learned languages easily and read everything she could get her hands on.

After considering the battery of responses, her beloved Papa told her what she needed to do. He answered firmly and unequivocally: “You must become a doctor!”

“A doctor!?” she inquired, puzzled at her beloved Papa’s matter-of-fact reply. “How ever did he come up with that suggestion?”

And to this, her father replied bluntly, “Well, after you study long and very hard and go through the very difficult and LONG journey to become a doctor, you can travel, you can write whatever stories, speak whatever languages you wish and you can teach to your heart’s content. But the MOST important thing you can do for yourself and for your family’s honor, is you can help people–especially poor or less fortunate people live better lives, my precious darling!”

That conversation was in the Orwellian year of 1984–thirty-two years ago. And since that conversation, there have more days than she can remember in which she wished she had NOT listened to her father’s sagely advice. So many horrifically hard and painful days of bearing witness to extreme inhumanity to those most vulnerable: From the extreme gang violence in 1992 during and following the explosive days of the Los Angeles Riots when she had to (at times unsuccessfully) resuscitate young black, brown and yellow-skinned boys, bruthas, sons and fathers riddled with bullet holes in their hearts and through their bowels; to the extreme poverty of Madras, India while studying Rural and Community Health at the prestigious Christian Medical School in fourth year medical school; followed by her first fact-finding trip back to her quê-hương (homeland) before graduating USC-Keck School of Medicine in 1995 where she saw for the first time victims of Agent Orange with Aliens-from-another-planet-like macro-hydrocephaly and more than five digits on each hand…and then there were the many, many orphans from a war that was fought two decades earlier, that she met at orphanages run by Catholic nuns along the Highway 1 that tethered this snake-like S-shaped former homeland.

In her final year of Internal Medicine residency at the UCLA-Sepulveda VA program, she pursued yet another ‘away rotation’ for two months on the Indian Reservation of Zuni Nation, New México. There, she saw the same diseases afflicting Native-Americans that she witnessed in the developing nations of Central and South America and SE Asia where she had traveled as a young doctor. Native Americans who had been displaced for generations were being subjected to unspeakable living conditions, as they were forced to live on reservations situated on some of the most arid and unforgiving lands of this rich nation–a divided nation which had become her beloved naturalized, second homeland.

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She came to learn that there were so many more ancient rituals and traditions of Healing. Her conscience was stirred by the lack of opportunity and the GRAVE inhumanity of old U.S. domestic policies toward Indigenous People of the Americas. These antiquated colonial policies from two centuries ago were still imposing dire ripple effects upon their well-funded healthcare system run by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs). Despite the ‘comprehensive healthcare’ offered, the social, economic and political disparities in that part of the ‘forgotten world’ seemed insurmountable. From the “food deserts” in the deserts of the Four Corners and the prevalent domestic violence born of genetic predispositions of alcoholism, diabetes, and obesity to the vast wasteland of impoverished lack of opportunity for education and self-care, training at the Zuni Comprehensive Healthcare Center was yet another eye-opener for a disillusioning Dr. Mai-Phương.

Then came two more trips back to Northern Vietnam on medical missions with Project Việtnam Foundation headed by Drs. Quỳnh and Chẩn Kiều in 1998, 2002. From massive natural disasters, like the direct relief mission she went on after Hurricane Mitch in Honduras; to surviving two super typhoons on Guam that left her then Pacific Island home without water or power for weeks from 2002-2003; from the mundanity and banality of classism, poverty and racism and poor access to healthcare and health insurance in the bowels of East Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley where she trained and worked for the first 10 years of her career–all too many times, Dr. Mai-Phương wanted to be anything else but a “Doctor.”

But as much as she tried to ‘run away’ from home, and run away from the practice of medicine, the universe would NOT set her free. In 1999, she even tried to run away to Plum Village (Làng Mai) in the South of France at the dawn of Y2K new century, and offered to shave her hair and become a nun in order to serve humanity under the guidance of her beloved Sư Ông, the Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh.  However, $150,000.00 USD in student-loan debt and clearly trained to do something else, Thầy Nhật Hạnh declined to let her become a nun in his monastery–to join the beloved nuns and monks who had incubated her into the new century.

By the New Year 2000, she had worked as an associate clinical professor for LA County-USC in one of its comprehensive healthcare centers, followed by two years of working for Kaiser Permanente-SoCal and Healthcare Partners in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange Counties. When she literally could not ‘see her future’ as a doc-in-the-box of mandatory 20 minutes time slots (whether the patient was 22 or 92 years old), Dr. Mai-Phương wanted nothing to do with staying on the ‘treadmill’ of 21st century medicine.

And yet, it would take almost twenty more years until she could figure out her sustainable path in medicine from that initial ‘career consultation’ with her Papa Son in 1984.  From 2001-2004, she ran away again–this time, to the tropical Pacific Island of Guam, to fall back in love with the “art of medicine.”  Seven thousand miles from home, in the strategic area that is where “America’s Day Begins,” Mai-Phương’s clinical acumen and skills were sharpened as she had to really learn to practice excellent clinical medicine.  Everyday, she would encounter complex Pacific Islander patients with greater vulnerabilities to terrible diseases as a result of genetic predispositions to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or infections living out in the tropics.  That, coupled with higher risk behaviors and cultural norms like high rates of smoking, a very rich diet, heavy with grilled and BBQ meats and few fresh vegetables, Dr. Mai-Phương had her work cut out for her.

The salvation of her career came when she took a 2-year job on Guam, with the HMO PacifiCare-Asia Pacific which was a former FHP and Talbert Medical Group affiliate, whose parent headquarters was based in SoCal.  She then opened her first solo private practice in 2004 but quickly closed it down when she realized that she would not likely remain in Guam for 5-10 years to see the fruits of her arduous labor come to blossom.  In 2004-2005, she returned to Orange County and resolved to pursue her Masters of Public Health.  She got accepted to Harvard and UCLA and chose the UCLA Executive Program for Health Professionals.

B52_Emmy_Duc_n_ MP_5.17.09Concurrently, she was offered a solo private practice in her dream area of Napa and she jumped at the opportunity to ‘make it’ as her own boss in private practice–it was the ONLY healthcare delivery system she had not yet tried. She and her new husband, filmmaker Đức H. Nguyễn, managed to run a thriving solo practice for 6 years, doing ‘whatever was necessary’ to
make her dreams come true.

(In the interim, director Đức and Mai-Phương funded and produced 2 award-winning documentary films about Vietnamese Boat People and won 2 Emmy Awards to boot… but again, this narrator digresses.)


At “advanced maternal age or AMA” of 41 years, Đức and Mai-Phương birthed their first child, during the Great Recession.  New, older parents Mai-Phương and Đức unfortunately, came to the harsh realization that their “Karuna Healthcare” clinic in Napa was not sustainable.  For with a newborn baby in tow, during middle age, Mai-Phương literally was no longer able to work the obligatory 80-100 hours per week to maintain her robust outpatient, inpatient and community health services.  She had to come to terms that ‘her dream come true’ private practice was becoming yet another nightmare.  Finally in 2011, they relocated once again to Orange County, to be closer to immediate family and extended ‘villagers’ of long-time arts and community activist-friends in Little Saigon-Orange County, to help them raise their son.

In Little Saigon-OC, Dr. Mai-Phương would go on to work in a small group private practice for 4 years.  Later, she also served concomitantly part-time in a community health clinic from 2014-15, to fulfill her mission of serving the underserved.  She then became Chief Medical Officer of that Southland Health Center, when it garnered much-coveted Level III Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and it’s newly minted Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) status.  In the short time that she served as CMO, she garnered a grant from the College of American Pathologists to provide highest caliber Women’s Health services to indigent or under-insured women called “See Test Treat.*” (See article below Người Việt–the largest and oldest Vietnamese language newspaper in the free world.)

Under her leadership, Southland Health Center also hosted two community health fairs within 6 months to screen and identify patients at high risks for diabetes, osteoporosis, breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.  Dr. Mai-Phương enjoyed very much being able to apply her hard-earned community and public health expertise, along with her Public Relations and mass media skills, in the service of those most in need.

Back in her ethnic community, Mai-Phương applied her many talents in languages, public speaking and mass media outreach.  She dared to tackle her fear of not owning her mother tongue and convinced in-language Việt Nam California Radio (VNCR 106.3FM) to allow her to spearhead a community health and patient empowerment program called Sức Khỏe và Bạn (SKVB) aka To Your Health, Friends, from 2012 to 2014.  This was in direct response to the roll out of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) which she knew in her many years as minority health advocate, would transform how healthcare would be delivered.

Dr. Mai-Phương knew early on that the well-intended ACA (which was designed to ‘even the playing field’ for minority patients), would be difficult to implement in communities of color, especially for patients who were Limited English Proficient (LEP).  By 2013, her SKVB radio healthcare program would win the 2013 New America Media Award for Outstanding Broadcast Journalism for its 6-part series called The ACA and You! which broke down the ACA into bite-sized tutorials to teach LEP patients about the essential parts of the new healthcare law.  Today, she is considered a bonafide ‘healthcare journalist and consultant’ to whom the San Francisco-based New America Media turns to, whenever they host press conferences or community health forums in Southern California.


Though her career was stable and she had adequate time to volunteer and be present for her now, 5 year old toddler son, something deep within her yearned to be ‘free’ of working in others’ treadmills and being still a “PCP: aka Primary Care Peasant” to third-party payors and catering to other’s rules.  Deep in her conscience, she longed to be ‘free’ to do medicine better–and to apply her many skillsets and talents.


With faith in herself and the universe, Dr. Mai-Phương embraces the Year of the “Fire” Monkey with grace and gratitude.

But the GOOD news?  In this #Herstorical year of 2016, aka the “Year of  Fire Monkey,” Dr. Mai-Phương has figured out a magical formula wherein her “love” of the art of healing and the practice of medicine–in this fast-paced and fractured Made in the USA healthcare system–can be married with her love of teaching, her commitment to service and her passion for storytelling. Soon, she will be able to combine ALL these loves and write her greatest life chapter to date.

That chapter, friends, is called Karuna Healthcare Consultants, Inc. (KHC). Comprised of four service lines, through KHC, Dr. Mai-Phương will be able to continue her work of caring compassionately and conscientiously for all patients; teaching (her patients, pre-medical and medical student-mentees as well as young physicians-in-training) how to refine their craft as healers; meanwhile producing quality-content, in-language programs for radio, television and social media to help Educate. Empower. Elevate. and Entertain at-risk patients to lead healthier lives and become better healthcare consumers.

KHC biz-card.2.12The best part of this new chapter is that she will be doing it on her terms, as the CEO and CMO of her new, healthier, balanced life. For in this new chapter, Dr. Mai-Phương will be able to actualize ‘Self-Love’ as much as ‘Love for others’–a lesson that has taken her over twenty years to learn.


Having found a like-minded core group of highly-trained, deeply compassionate and conscientious colleagues, she is proud to introduce her opus magnum into the world.  Presenting, the Karuna Healthcare Consultants, Inc. Team comprised of Dr. Mai-Phương (internist), Dr. Jacob Huỳnh Duy-Linh, MD (Family Practice, Hospice and Palliative Care specialist who is licensed in acupuncture) and Dr. Tony Nguyễn Vũ Thụy, PharmD who trained at UCSF.  Pharmacist Tony owns the independent, state-of-the-art, compound Value Rx Pharmacy located on 22 Odyssey Lane in Irvine, California, adjacent to the Hoag Hospital-Irvine and Kaiser outpatient office buildings.  (Please refer to their individual blogs to learn more about their incredible paths to karuna healthcare.)

Value Rx Pharmacy provides highest quality, personalized pharmacy services.  They can home or office-deliver patient’s medications within 3 hours of receiving the physician’s e-Rx.  They also “bubble-pack” medications for seniors who take complicated medication regimens or suffer from dementia, to improve patient compliance and decrease medication errors.

You can now “see” Dr. Mai-Phương and her colleagues at Karuna Healthcare Consultants in 1 of 3 ways:

In person in their traditional physician’s office at Advanced Health & Wellness Center located a 7901 Westminster Boulevard in Westminster, CA 92683.   Please call 1-(844) KARUNA-0 or (844) 527-8620 to make an appointment.

If you are home-bound, disabled or terminally ill, she and Dr. Jacob Huỳnh Duy-Linh can make “house-calls” to see you in your homes, Board & Care or Nursing Homes.

And lastly, via telehealth consults on your desk top or laptop computer, if equipped with a webcam, powered by http://www.RealTimeClinic.com.  Step into her personal virtual waiting room here: https://realtimeclinic.com/provider/dr-mai-phuong-nguyen-md-2/.  

To learn more about Karuna Healthcare Consultants’ team members and services, check out these multi-lingual videos (in English, Việt and soon to be added Espanol!)

English:  https://vimeo.com/159015971

Vietnamese:  https://vimeo.com/159015760  

Spanish: under productions, soon to be released in late March, 2016.

Later in March 2016, www.Karuna-Healthcare.com will launch to give you a plethora of information about KHC’s growing products and services.  Also, KHC is finalizing their many partnerships with  community-based organizations including Home Health and Hospice agencies, community outreach, education and support groups and special Adult-Day Care programs.  Check back soon to see all the exciting news that will unfold later this spring and summer 2016!


Professional photograph courtesy of Tanya Nga Trương (T.N.T. Photography) and Dr. Mai-Phương’s archives of travel and adventures.





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