25 Years of Impact: UCI Resident Shares How TGR Foundation Supported His Path to Medicine
Dr. Timothy Vu immigrated from Vietnam to the Little Saigon community in Orange County 26 years ago. As he navigated life in America, he knew he could overcome his obstacles if he saw them as motivation to fuel his success.
With a network of support from family, teachers and TGR Foundation’s Earl Woods Scholar Program, Vu is the first person in his family to graduate high school, college, post-graduate school and become a working professional.
Vu graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in both Biology and English. He later completed medical school at the University of California, Irvine while simultaneously earning his Master’s in Business Administration.
He currently resides in Garden Grove, Ca. with his parents and younger brother. Between shifts as an Internal Medicine Resident at UC Irvine Medical Center, Vu opened up about his path to medicine and the support he received along the way.
Did you always want to be a doctor?
I came into college wanting to be anything but a doctor since I always had bad experiences with health care. When I was younger, whenever anyone in my family would get sick, I remember how much my parents would hesitate to seek medical assistance because they did not understand how to navigate the system and feared the potential financial burden on our family. However, all that changed during my third year of college.
What made you decide to pursue a career in medicine?
As part of the Vietnamese Community Health club, I took part in quarterly health fairs in the Little Saigon area. As I interacted with patients and learned about their lives and struggles, I saw that the health disparities and socioeconomic barriers that I faced during my upbringing were also prevalent in the local communities around me. I then realized that I wanted to become a physician who can provide medical support and advocate for these men and women, these moms and dads who have never hesitated to give up their time, their health and their lives for their children to have brighter futures.
How did TGR Foundation’s Earls Woods Scholar Program support you during your academic journey?
As a first-generation college student growing up in an immigrant household, I always hesitated to reach out to other people for any kind of support. Partially because I didn’t want to bother people and more importantly, I didn’t know anyone to bother even if I had questions.
As an Earl Woods Scholar, TGF Foundation provided me with a wealth of resources to tap into from providing me with a stable support system that was always ready to assist me, internship opportunities for me to expand my professional development and access to incredible mentors who help me lay down the foundation for me to succeed in life.
“Through the failures and successes, through the tears and smiles and through the hardships and accomplishments, TGR Foundation has been there for me since the beginning, always exceeding my expectations and always believing in me, even when I hesitated to believe in myself.”
What role did mentorship play in your academic success?
Mentorship has been critical to my success. As an Earl Woods Scholar, I was paired with my mentor, Dr. Jean Gehricke, for my four years at college. A Child Psychologist with the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders at UC Irvine, Jean is one of the most amazing individuals I have met in my life. In addition to providing me with professional advice and tips on how to succeed in the different junctions of my journey, Jean has always been an amazing pillar of support for me. His guidance, motivating words and reassuring presence are some of the many reasons why I am where I am right now.
During one of the internships that was provided to me by TGR Foundation, I was also connected to Dr. Sosa-Johnson, an Internist who is a primary care provider at UC Irvine. From college, medical school and residency, Dr. Sosa-Johnson has also been a stable presence in my life, never hesitating to take some time out of her busy schedule to provide me with her amazing words of support and guidance.
“Whether it be through being a healthcare provider for underserved populations or a mentor figure for students with similar backgrounds to myself who also aspire to have a career in the medical field, I have always valued the importance of providing support for others, just as the TGR foundation and my mentors have provided support for me throughout the years.”
What are your professional goals and plans for the future?
My current goal after finishing my Internal Medicine Residency is to further subspecialize by doing a Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship. As I look further ahead though, I know I want to be an advocate for underserved communities, an ally for socioeconomically challenged families and a trustworthy doctor for vulnerable populations around me.
How do you plan to pay your experiences and support forward?
One day, soon, I hope to build a practice in or near the Little Saigon area that I grew up in. I wish to give back, pay it forward and become an individual who can bridge the generational, cultural and language barriers in order to better assist my patients across the healthcare continuum. I want to create an impact for these patients, a long-lasting change in their lives that they can then pass on to their loved ones.
Building student success for 25 years.