Leave it to an athletic trainer to start a monthly Alumni Watch then during the busy time of the year it slips my mind and I miss the month of December and somewhat November at a last start with October spotlight. Well I have gotten to January and my New Years Resolution is not to miss any month’s this year, fingers crossed. And with that I give you a young lady whom I did not get the chance to know but wish I had. This young lady was recommended from Coach Alexander so I reached out to her and she was thrilled to be honored. Here is to hoping this young doctor finds here way back the Fort Worth area and help out those who need medical advice. With that I give you January’s Alumni Watch, Dr. Huong-Duong (Dawn) Phan.
What year did you graduate from Tech? 2010
What was your major here at Trimble Tech?
Health Science Technology
Has that changed from what you are doing now, was there a moment you knew this is what I want to do with my life?
Slightly! I originally applied to Trimble Tech (my home school was Eastern Hills) because of its HST program – I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a physician, but I was always drawn to the medical field. I enjoyed my experience in the HST program and ultimately graduated with a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license.
What was your favorite memory at Trimble Tech?
One of my most treasured memories and one that I think exemplifies the spirit of support and giving at Tech occurred during my senior year. I had just gotten accepted to Harvard and was invited to their prefrosh weekend. They covered my flight, but I had never traveled out of state by myself. When Mrs. Vicky Geisler found out, she and her husband took the weekend off, flew there with me, took the subway from the airport to Harvard Square just to show me how to navigate it, and spent the weekend doing their own thing while I explored the campus. Then, when I was done, they took me out for a nice meal and paid for our taxi back to the airport. It was so above and beyond what I expected from a teacher, and I was (and still am) very grateful for her kindness.
Where you involved in any club, athletic teams?
I was involved in a number of organizations, including HOSA, JROTC, Link Crew, NHS, UIL, and the (now-defunct) Asian Club. I wasn’t on any athletic teams, but I wish I had participated!
If you are willing to share, what were some (if any) of the obstacles that you had to overcome to get through high school? Where there moments that you thought you weren’t going to wind up doing anything? How did you get past all of that? Coach Alexander shared your father came over from Vietnam, what does he think of who you’ve become and what you have accomplished?
I definitely hope that my father is proud of me and where I am in life! I would be lying if I said that my parents’ experiences didn’t play a huge role in motivating me. My father fought alongside Americans on the South Vietnamese side of the war and, following the fall of Saigon, was captured and spent 7 ½ years of his youth in a “re-education” camp. He doesn’t like to talk much about this period of his life, but often says he’s grateful that this time qualified us to immigrate to the United States. My parents uprooted their lives to give their children a chance at a better life and I’d like to think that I made the best of the opportunity made possible by their sacrifices.
How was it having a teacher stay in touch and suggest you are doing great things? Are there any other teachers you keep in touch with?
I’m very flattered! Coach Alexander is a staunch advocate of his students and I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with him, as well as vicariously exploring other cultures through his travels, over the years. To have him suggest that I’ve accomplished noteworthy things is an honor! I’m friends with a handful of my former teachers on social media and still remember fondly Mr. Jonathon Mills and Mrs. Susan Waring, whose glowing letters of recommendation smoothed the way for my acceptance to college.
What advice would you give any current students who might have a tough path and want to reach their dreams?Reach for your dreams, but be realistic about them and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you run into stumbling blocks along the way. Seek out mentors – those who will gladly and willingly share with you their time and wisdom. Don’t take on five- or six-figure college debt if it’s not what you truly want to do. Life’s too short to make decisions based solely on others’ expectations. At the end of the day, it is you who has to live with the consequences of your decisions and the world needs its mechanics, chefs, and EMTs just as much as it needs its doctors, lawyers, and engineers.
Why Harvard and what was that like?
Harvard was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I feel very fortunate to have experienced. They gave me an incredibly generous financial aid package (based on my parents’ income) that covered tuition, room and board, and even a few extra perks such as a laptop stipend and flight allowance every year. It was completely overwhelming in both a good and bad way – nothing quite compares to learning at an institution so steeped in traditions and history. I lived in Harvard Yard, studied in Widener Library, ate in Annenberg Hall, nodded off in Sanders Theatre, and crossed paths with some of the brightest minds of my generation. At the same time, there was immense pressure to keep up with those minds and their accomplishments. I learned very quickly to stop comparing myself to others and relied heavily on the support of my family, friends, and classmate-turned-husband, Tho.
Where are you now? What are you up to?
I’m halfway through my intern year in Family Medicine at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s been a whirlwind six months of learning the city, the hospital, and how to be a doctor. It’s very true that physicians are lifelong learners – it feels like I’ve learned so much since graduating medical school, but there is also so much I don’t know still. Medicine changes (and has changed) so much that it’s almost impossible to be a good physician without staying up to date on the latest evidence-based recommendations. Tho and I started residency together, so we’ll be in Pittsburgh until he finishes his four-year anesthesiology program.
What is your favorite thing to you do with your job/education?
I’m a fairly private/introverted in general, so I am always amazed and humbled by the amount of trust my patients place in me. I’m meeting many of them for the first time and, in the span of 15-20 minutes, learn everything from their personal to family to sexual history. It’s a very unique and privileged position.
What is your favorite memory/accomplishment in the career that you have experienced so far?
I’m very early in my career so it may not seem like a big deal to some, but I remember seeing a 10-year-old for her well child check a few months ago. She was very healthy and caught up on her immunizations, so I didn’t need to do anything except chat about diet and exercise. Towards the end of the visit, her mother asked me to spell my last name and, as I watched, carefully typed Dr. P-H-A-N into a note on her phone that included her daughter’s other medical information. That’s when it hit me – I was this child’s doctor. I was no longer the premed “thinking about applying to medical school” or the medical student “helping to take care of you today.” (I still feel weird introducing myself as Dr. Phan when calling patients on the phone, but I’m hoping that’ll feel more natural over time.)
Where would you like to see yourself in ten years time?
I’d like to be back in Fort Worth by then! My family all live around here and while my education has taken me to various parts of the country, I still consider it my hometown and would love to return. I’m not sure what my future practice will look like yet (e.g., private practice, academics, hospital-based vs outpatient), but I’m excited to find out!
Anything else you would like to add in?
I’m happy to be a resource to any current or former students who are interested in attending college, applying to medical school, pursuing a career in the healthcare field, or otherwise just want to run any thoughts by someone who may understand their situation – just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Phan, I can tell you Trimble Tech is very proud of all you have accomplished. Hopefully after you and your husband finish rotations yall find your way back to the Fort Worth area and our HST teachers would be able to go to your practice and see how things are done. Congratulations on everything you have already accomplished and best wishes in your future endeavors.
As I have mentioned, if you know of a Tech Alumni who is doing great things, check out this link and send in your info for consideration for future Alumni Watches!