Dr. Nguyen Thi Tuyet, Associate Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program

It is required of a new physician to swear upon several healing gods that he will uphold professional ethical standards. Dr. Tuyet has also committed to realizing this oath of teaching medical knowledge to the younger generation as a doctor and medical professor.

‘To hold him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to be a partner in life with him, and to fulfill his needs when required; to look upon his offspring as equals to my siblings, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or contract; and that by the set rules, lectures, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the art to my sons, and those of my teachers, and to students bound by this contract and having sworn this Oath to the law of medicine, but no others.’  Hippocratic Oath, the most widely known Greek medical text. 

Upon completing high school, as an 18-year-old girl, Dr. Tuyet, like many of her peers, did not know which career path she would pursue. In 1998, merely one year after the arrival of the Internet to Vietnam, the exchange of information was conducted primarily through word of mouth and therefore, career orientation for children was mainly parents’ responsibility. Her school organized a written personality test for students to choose their future careers. The luck of the draw had it that Dr. Tuyet was pronounced suitable to become a doctor thanks to her compassion. Supposedly the most prestigious job in Vietnam, medicine was the field Dr. Tuyet decided to pursue for the rest of her life despite uncertainty and the lack of information about what challenges lay ahead. This decision led her to Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine in Ho Chi Minh city, where she spent 6 years on medical training. However, not until the third year of college did Dr. Tuyet have the chance to do clinical training, meet with patients, and observe what doctors do in real life. Dr. Tuyet watched how much painl patients experienced, and how doctors managed to apply their knowledge and expertise to ameliorate these pains for patients. It was only then that she felt luck got her to the right place.

After graduation from Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine, Dr. Tuyet spent 3.5 years at 115 Hospitality for clinical training. Then, Dr. Tuyet had to confront another dilemma about which major to pursue residency in: Internal medicine, surgery, or pediatrics. In comparison to the decision in 1998, she then had more information about the nature of each major on the Internet but less information about which path she was passionate about. Dr. Tuyet then drew a S.W.O.T framework of her capabilities. First, with pediatrics, she had a fondness for children because of their innocence. However, she only loved seeing children when they were healthy, not when they were sick and crying. In terms of surgery, Dr. Tuyet had developed  a special preference for orthopedic surgery, which can last up to 12 hours. Long-hour operations would be a great chance for newly-graduated doctors to fully immerse themselves in their passion; however, Dr. Tuyet perceived that this would not be a long-term path for her when she had a family. Internal medicine seemed to be the only option that helped her, as a female doctor, balance work and life. 

As luck would have it once again, she received a scholarship to become a Resident Doctor at Yonsei University in Korea. “It was a milestone of my life because up until meeting my professors in Yonsei University, my purpose in life was to become a physician like my peers. I had not been interested in teaching anyone anything.” Dr. Tuyet shared honestly. Her teachers were brilliant clinical doctors; however, they had always followed the Hippocratic Oath – passing down this art to junior doctors with their whole hearts. 

First, always prioritize patients and their health. Aside from technical knowledge, her Korean teachers demonstrated the most warm-hearted gestures to patients regardless of who they were. Second, all treatments they chose to apply were scientific and fit the particular body’s demands. Because each human has different physical characteristics, there is no mutual treatment or guideline that can fit all. Yonsei teachers are open to discussion with their juniors about what research leads to their choice of personalized treatment. Third, they are tolerant and appreciate learning from trial and error. In a risk-averse industry like this, a minor mistake can be lethal, and therefore, learning from mistakes early in one’s career can lead to a fruitful learning curve. Besides being teachers, her professors, similar to life mentors, also got to know about students’ future concerns and aspirations. The enlightening experience at Yonsei became a source of inspiration and motivation for Dr. Tuyet to set up her dream medical school in Vietnam.

Joining hands with VinUniversity was one of the riskiest decisions Dr. Tuyet ever made in her life. With the most careful doctors, risks are the least tolerated. After coming back to Vietnam in 2016, she intended to apply and continue her career in Singapore. Sending her application to Singapore at 24:00, she received a call from VinUniversity, which was just a project at the time, at 8:00 the next day. Dr. Tuyet flew to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh city to have a meeting about the project soon after that. “Everything was just on paper at the time. There were no students, professors, or campus, just a small office with only 6 staff members at Times City. The only reason that made me believe in the project was the people,” shared Dr. Tuyet. She met Dr. Le Cu Linh, who was the project manager at the time, and they had a deep conversation about the future of Vietnamese medical health. Dr. Linh enthusiastically shared his dream of an excellent American-style medical school located in Vietnam. Dr.Tuyet was taken aback and grew emotional because that was also her dream when she was in Korea. She knew then that it was time she herself fulfilled the Hippocratic Oath.