conducted by Providenza Loera Rocco, JD, MSW, MBE, HEC-C
When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?
I knew pretty early on that I wanted to be a doctor. Having witnessed the amount of distrust of medicine within immigrant communities while growing up, I wanted to become someone who could help bridge that gap and foster more belief in healthcare systems for these populations!
What made you choose Temple?
I was initially drawn to Temple because of its urban underserved patient population, its mission, and its dual-degree program with the master’s in Urban Bioethics. Additionally, Philly has a great food, drink, and art scene — it’s lively, walkable, and in close proximity to nature and some beautiful views.
What interested you in the master’s in Urban Bioethics?
I really enjoyed my liberal arts college experience in which I got to explore medical humanities, creative nonfiction, anthropology, sociology, global health and public health. This program seemed like a perfect fit for me to get more formal training in exploring the intersection between structure and agency for urban communities with a bioethics perspective. I also loved that we would be doing work that I aspired to do in my future career as a physician — learning how to formulate sustainable community engagement projects, from the process of recruiting people for focus groups to create needs assessments, to actually carrying on the projects ourselves and passing it on to underclassmen.
So you are a 4th year now, what are you currently doing? And what are you most excited about?
I’m currently on a pain management rotation, but soon starting my scholarly project! It’s been a really wonderful time, thoughtfully reflecting upon the past few years and meeting so many inspirational people as I navigate the residency interview trail for Family Medicine. Besides being excited about deciding where I will be working the next 3 years, there is so much that I am looking forward to. My thesis has been my heart and soul for the past 2 years, and I am so happy to be able to incorporate this work into my scholarly project for first-gen college graduates in medicine, as well as into our Gold Humanism Honor Society pipeline program at Lincoln High School. Besides that, I am also looking forward to creating lots of educational presentations and songs for our PHA Cares Project!
What has been your greatest accomplishment at Temple Med?
I think my greatest accomplishment would be maintaining the amount of gratitude that I have had while going through the rigors of medical school. I can honestly say that I have never felt burnt out despite exploring so many different facets of social justice, policy, and health equity work alongside the dual degree program.
What have you observed about North Philadelphia and its community?
North Philadelphia has such an interesting history and culture, grit, and a strong sense of community. The wellbeing of its constituents is impacted by incredibly complex social factors, as well as centuries of institutionalized racism, and not enough efforts are being made to address their concerns. We need to dismantle oppressive structures, meet them where they are and see beyond misconceptions to truly care for these individuals within the contexts of their community. Racism was a public health crisis even before this year’s reckoning.
Tell us about your family.
My two lovely parents are out in New York City. Having emigrated from Vietnam to Canada then the United States after the Vietnam War, they often told me stories of courage and sacrifice that humble and ground me in my own pursuits.
How has COVID-19 impacted you and your medical school experience?
COVID-19 has been an interesting experience that was both a detriment and a blessing in disguise. It was unfortunate that our last rotation of third year was shortened and we can’t assemble in our large multidisciplinary student learning teams to learn from one another. I remember how stressful things were as I balanced caring for my extended family virtually from a different city with rotations and the difficult, ever-changing schedule for away rotations and examinations. Amidst the BLM movement and social awakening of our country, it was all an incredibly dramatic experience that solidified my interest in social justice work and its role within medicine. I think the pandemic has given me the luxury of having more time and opportunities built into my training to intellectually explore these fields. Now that anti-racism is considered more meaningful and more related to medicine, there is a greater appreciation for the work of activists, and I look forward to seeing the meaningful work that comes from it.
What do you do for fun?
I love exploring and trying new things! I like to stay active by running through scenic paths (or to the newest restaurant from which I want to get takeout), kickboxing, and playing tennis. I also like to do creative things like play my ukulele, sing, dance, or dabble in photography. I also like to experiment in the kitchen and cook healthy food.
2020 has been a questionable year. Tell us something good that has happened to you in 2020.
I feel like good things happen on a daily basis! But one thing that was really meaningful to me this year was that I got to moderate and engage fellow FGLI in medicine communities across the world in thoughtful discussions. I got to meet such incredibly inspiring and insightful individuals who were willing to share space and to reflect upon this aspect of their professional identities for the first time. I’ve also had more pre-med students reach out to me, so mentoring them has brought things full-circle.
What are your research interests, and have you published or presented anything related to those interests?
I have a lot of research interests that all tie back to a core bioethics theme of health equity. Right now, my interests lie in diversity and inclusion, health equity, anti-racism, and culturally-compelling care. I’ve published with our MAUB faculty on the role of physicians in gun ownership policies, written policy memos with fellow SNaHPers, and published on access to care and translation policies for LEP families. I’ve also been able to present an award-winning poster on strategies and barriers in translating discharge instructions for LEP AAPI families.
If you had to describe Temple Med in one word, what would it be?