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Published: May 2, 2021

We're Storytellers - Duy Nguyen, DO

Dr. Duy Nguyen, the new president of Orange County’s chapter, is on a mission to make a difference in people’s lives.


Like most physicians, Duy Nguyen, DO, is passionate about his profession. But unlike many who knew as a child that they wanted to become a doctor, he found his passion when he was already in college.


“I came into medicine very late into the game,” said Dr. Nguyen. “One of my professors said that ‘if you want to change the face of medicine, you want to go into primary care,’ so I thought okay, let's go into primary care.”


His motto is to prevent diseases instead of treating them.


“I feel like if you are with me as a patient for five years and you get diabetes, that's my fault because I didn't educate you enough about the process that leads to that disease.”


Dr. Nguyen was elected president of the Orange County Chapter of California Academy of Family Physicians [date]. He is 32 years old and specializes in treating transgender and hepatitis C patients. He’s also obtaining certification to treat patients living with HIV. His passion is community medicine and primary care, which he attributes to the great community faculty he had during his residency. Throughout the whole three years of residency, he rotated at a free clinic. There he met fascinating people – patients who shared their stories, and that solidified his passion for community medicine and a desire to complete the Community Medicine Fellowship. During the 13-month fellowship, he worked full-time at the free clinic.


“I feel as Family Medicine Physicians we’re storytellers,” said Dr. Nguyen. “We are given the ability to enter a person's life in a very intimate way and they share every detail with us because they trust us. These stories are what I take home with me.”


Dr. Nguyen immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam with his family in 1992. He was five years old and the youngest of seven children. His family settled in Orange County and there is where he works today, serving underserved communities.


Famous for its rich neighborhood, touristic center, attractions, and popular beaches, Orange County also has ongoing issues with poverty and people experiencing homelessness These issues have continued to be a challenge for its health department.


“North Orange County tends to be more neglected,” he said. “That's where most of the black and brown people live and work.”


As a family physician working for the most vulnerable population, Dr. Nguyen faces the challenges of a broken health care system, where people are dying waiting for a specialist because referral takes too long to process. He also points out the failure of society to provide a strong social contract for each person, which means a guaranteed living wage, health insurance, food, water, and housing – “things that a lot of people don't have.”


According to him, the problem is exacerbated because of the lack of doctors, since there are not enough residencies, and not enough positions going to the community especially in rural underserved areas. From his residency class of eight, he was the only one who went to work for a Federally Qualified Health Centers (FGHC), a community-based health care provider who offers primary care for underserved areas and never turns away patients regardless of their insurance or legal status.


While still in medical school, Dr. Nguyen became involved with the CAFP. After his fellowship graduation, he was elected as a chapter board member and found a team of passionate and enthusiastic doctors working on advocacy.


“They want to make a difference in the lives of our Orange County Family Doctors and I want to be part of this mission,” he said.


The chapter board members divide the work equally, but this year Dr. Nguyen became the chapter president and one of his goals is to get more young doctors involved.


“I have so much energy and passion that I want to weave into what we do this next year,” he said. “I'd love to meet with the other presidents to see what they're up to. I want to learn from them, but I'm ready to go. I'm ready to do my best to move our chapter forward this year.”

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