I was idealistic as a child and as a young adult in medical school and residency. I thought that once I graduated and became a physician, I might open my own free clinic. I was challenged into thinking that not everything free is good; that working hard for something is sometimes more valuable, even for the patients that I serve.
I have been so driven all these years because I did not want to take anything for granted. I come from humble beginnings, and I was—and still am—so grateful for the love, courage, sacrifice and strong work ethic that my parents and siblings have shown me. My family’s journey to America starting in 1980 as “boat people” was a life or death experience, and God chose to save us. After months in refugee camps, we were placed in Springfield, Missouri—the place that I have called home since 1981. I desired to give back because I felt God had given me much.
I have fond memories of my years at Drury. After graduating from high school as valedictorian, I was self-motivated and triple majored in biology, chemistry and Spanish as a pre-med student and graduated with honors. And as a commuter student, I still found time for activities such as environmental club, Spanish club, student government, and even tried cheerleading for a year. I also worked throughout college at my family’s restaurant, Jade East. I had a great group of friends and the support of awesome Drury faculty who guided me and encouraged me throughout college.
Then came medical school where studying became my next full-time (and over-time) job in order to learn everything I needed to know about becoming a great doctor. My father’s death during my first year of medical school was a challenging time for me. I realized that he would not see me graduate after all the sacrifices he and my family had made to get me to that point. Additionally, the challenge of going from feeling that I was on top of the world and could do anything to feeling like I was starting all over again during medical school was a test of whether or not I was truly committed to a career in the healing arts and if God wanted me to be on that path. I knew He was in control even though I questioned it at times. God gave me the patience, perseverance, work ethic and skills to get me through medical school and then through the long work hours and stress of putting what I had learned into practice during residency. I knew that He had placed me in this position for the right reason.
As I searched for a job post-residency, Brooks Miller, president/CEO of Jordan Valley Community Health Center in Springfield, Missouri, called my residency to inquire about any graduating physician who would be a good fit for a clinic that he was operating for the medically underserved population. One of my attending physicians recommended me. I truly felt that God was working every detail out all along, and I have now been with Jordan Valley for almost 11 years. As a physician and medical director, my days (and sometimes nights) are busy and rewarding, and my roles as wife and mother to three beautiful and precious children bring me joy and much-needed balance in life. The challenge is to not take family for granted and to find that healthy balance between work and home life.
I have come full circle, it seems, since I now work just a couple of blocks away from the Drury campus where I got my start. I have helped to create the Drury Health Service Corps, through which student volunteers come to Jordan Valley Community Health Center every day to help our patients and to get firsthand, valuable experience in the field of medicine. I mentor several students (some from Drury) who are pursuing a career in medicine. I tell them that the road ahead may be tough, but it will be worthwhile if you are in it for the right reasons: to help patients and to make a difference. When I have had a bad day, I remind myself that as long as I have helped at least one patient that day, it was all worth it.
I will never forget my humble beginnings and the hard work it took to get to where I am now, for it has made me who I am and the physician that I have become. I am so grateful to my family and to the Drury family for watering the seed that was planted in me long ago, for it has grown into a tree, now bearing some fruits, with hopes of so much more to come.