Once a Vietnamese refugee, alum overcomes odds to become cardiologist

Nguyen MinhDr. Minh Nguyen ’80
Chemistry/Pre-Med Alum
Bethlehem, Pa.

When Minh Nguyen ’80 stepped onto American soil for the first time in 1975 as a 17-year-old refugee from Vietnam, he was not discouraged. He applied—with the help of his sponsoring family—to more than 20 colleges, wanting to follow his dreams to become a doctor. Out of those 20 colleges, only one—Messiah—responded. The College’s then-registrar gave Nguyen a challenge: prove yourself in one semester. Nguyen did just that, and he has never looked back.

In 1975 when widespread warfare broke out in Vietnam where Nguyen was born and raised, he and his family became one of many looking for a place to flee. “I was in 12th grade for a couple of months, and then the country fell into chaos,” he says. The family was stationed at a refugee camp in Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Pa. Unable to speak English, Nyugen had no way to prove to U.S. schools that he had already completed most of his high school education back in Vietnam.

“Even though in Vietnam we were very poor, I had a very good education,” he says. “But, I didn’t have any papers. There was no way to prove to Messiah or anybody else that I had (completed) high school work.”

Nguyen took a job as an orderly at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, Pa., learning English through classes the hospital offered. He also learned the language from church volunteers who taught in the evenings. In 1976, Messiah College agreed to give Nguyen the chance to work toward an undergraduate degree.

Today, Nguyen—who not only graduated with a degree in chemistry/pre-med and earned his M.D. at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1984—is a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa. He still looks back fondly on his time at Messiah and the professors and fellow students who helped him. “The chance to take the liberal arts education,” says Nguyen, “I would have not traded for anything. Doctors need not only the sciences, but the humanities, especially with a Christian world view. It’s very important.”

—Noreen Livoti ’02

Posted in 1980, Alumni, Chemistry, Class of ..., Majors & Minors | 3 Comments »

Posted on July 27th, 2010

3 Responses to “Once a Vietnamese refugee, alum overcomes odds to become cardiologist”

  1. binh nguyen Says:

    Minh is my five-year younger brother. I’m very proud of him and his accomplishments. I’m also grateful for his encouragement of me to return to school after I had spent nearly five years as an infantry man during war and three years working as a janitor in Camp Hill, PA.

    I acted on his encouragement, and I earned a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1983, three years after his graduation from Messiah. I was an old graduate, a non-traditional student, by yesterday’s standards.

    America is truly a land of opportunities, and Messiah College provides young men and women an opportunity to grow physically, spiritually, and intellectually in a highly desirable environment.

    I’m grateful to Messiah College for granting Minh a chance to realize his dream and to become a productive citizen of this great country, the U.S.A.

    God bless y’all and the U.S.A.

    –Binh Nguyen

  2. Mrs .TMP Says:

    Dr Minh is a classmate with my brother in law and sister
    who are all residing in Pennsylvania I have the pleasure to have met and to have known him through acquaintance, and very impressed with his capabilities both as a medical student, and a member of the vietnamese community..He has a
    very deep relious life which he has acquired from his years
    at Messiah college..He is the second child to a big family
    , and he is very responsible, and reliale in all facets..
    His level of english is impressive, and his work as a cardiologist is also impeccable.. He had helped me tremendously through the years when I was in college, and
    to this day, I highly recommended him to anyone who is seeking treatment in the field of vascular disease, and
    I am sure he will not dissappointed you with his medical knowledge.. My brother in law Dr. Thach Nguyen is also a good friend to him, and had told me that Dr.Minh Nguyen is
    a loyal friend, a wonderful family member to all of his younger sibblings after his father passed away, and a dependable doctor this is worth mentioning and highly respected…Wish him luck with his work, and forever Dr. Minh….
    Mrs. TMP. (Brooklyn park, Mn 55444)

  3. Wm. Drew Mountcastle Says:

    Minh was one of several Vietnamese students I got to know at Messiah before I graduated in 1979. What a guy! I am thrilled with what he has done with this life, making a difference in the lives of others with cardiac diseases. Minh, I humbly salute you and wish you all God’s blessings!


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