April 01, 2019 11:21 am David Mitchell – Bich-May Nguyen, M.D., M.P.H., loves family medicine, but her first job after residency wasn't what she envisioned. Seeing 20 patients a day in an urban underserved clinic became a grind. She longed for a change.
"Something was missing," she said. "When I was a student, I was really involved with the American Medical Student Association. I wanted to get back into advocacy. I felt that I could do more."
Nguyen charted a new path with a series of fellowships and, eventually, a new job that allowed her to pursue all her passions.
First, she was an inaugural Copello Health Advocacy Fellow in 2013-2014, working on state-level advocacy issues related to gun violence prevention and reproductive health access. That program of the National Physicians Alliance is designed to help physicians become effective patient advocates.
"I learned how to meet with legislators and write editorials for the lay public," said Nguyen, who has had five editorials published in the Houston Chronicle in recent years. "These are really useful skills. I can connect with people and let them hear what's going on from my perspective as a family physician."
It's also important, she said, for physicians to share their medical expertise with legislators and policymakers "who don't know the issues as well as we do."
Nguyen later became a fellow of the New Leaders Council and served on the executive committee of the organization's Houston chapter. The council equips young adults with the leadership skills needed to run for office, manage a campaign or start a new business. Nguyen said she's not going to be a candidate for office any time soon, but she found the experience valuable.
"That was really fun to meet people close to my own age from different industries," she said. "Throughout my training, I was hanging out mainly with other doctors. It connected me to a larger network outside medicine."
Nguyen found herself discussing issues such as education, immigration and criminal justice with teachers, college professors, lawyers and young executives from the finance and oil and gas industries.
"It was interesting to learn about policy issues through a different lens from people in other fields," she said.
After completing that program, Nguyen joined the faculty at the Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program in Sugar Land, Texas, in 2016. Last year, she became the program's research director. She completed the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) Medical Editing Fellowship this winter and edited Family Medicine's recent special issue on racism curricula and diversity recruitment programs. She also has written articles for the journal and has been a presenter at STFM events.
"I love my job, I love being a doctor and I love educating future family physicians," she said. "The beauty of family medicine is having longitudinal relationships with patients, knowing them and their families. And being able to help them through those times when they're vulnerable is very rewarding."
Nguyen said that as her program's residents wrap up their training, she hopes they will challenge themselves to find positions that allow them to pursue all their interests.
"I hope they not only think critically about how they take care of patients but will move beyond their clinic walls and get involved in their communities," she said.