I was able to interact a lot with patients because I interpreted between English and Vietnamese for doctors who did not speak Vietnamese. When I shadowed in pediatrics, I looked for cavities and used a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat of patients. I remember that one patient was a 6-year-old boy whose pupils did not contract upon exposure to light. When the room was dark and we shined a light to his eyes, there was no visible reaction and his pupils stayed the same size. I also met a 13-year-old patient with ectodermal dysplasia, so I got iced water for him to help prevent overheating because he is unable to sweat. While shadowing a doctor with adult patients, I would check the blood pressure, throat, and listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. I was able to observe that in Vietnam, a lot of adults are not aware of how harmful smoking is for them. Many started smoking from a very young age and continued to smoke even more, which affected their health. The health of many people could be improved greatly with early education. This was a recurring issue that I noticed; even for concepts about health that are considered basic in the United States, a lot of people in Vietnam are unaware of them.
At the Vitals station, I took blood pressure for children and adults. One elderly man was too skinny, so we had to take his blood pressure by using his leg instead of arm. I also used a stethoscope to count heartbeats and sterile blood lancets for finger pricking to test the glucose level in adults and hemoglobin level in children. I did vision testing with shapes and letters, and also used an autorefractor to screen kids and adults.
While working as crowd control, I gave directions to patients, led patients to the different stations, and interpreted between English and Vietnamese. I remember explaining to a patient where he had to go and how he was extremely happy that I could speak Vietnamese so that he could clearly understand where he was going. I talked to many waiting patients as well and was able to learn more about how their knowledge about health is very limited compared to ours. When I was calling numbers to take patients into the dental and pediatric stations, I interacted with many children while they were waiting. I met one very energetic and talkative girl named Qùynh Như who kept jumping and running around to ask when she could see the doctor, and so I talked with her and gave her stickers to have her stay in her seat to wait for her turn. From interacting with patients, both children and adults, I was able to improve how I gave them instructions so that I could be more efficient and they could understand me quicker.
At last year’s banquet at Tan Tao University, I performed “Hello Vietnam” and “Que Huong Ba Mien” to show how we Vietnamese Americans can connect with our roots and understand the culture. We are able to choose the best of both worlds, and can appreciate how knowing our culture makes us special. I am a second-year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and am planning to apply to medical school so that I can attend after graduating.