May 22, 2010
SIU student’s parents struggled after escaping Communist country
Quoc Pham gets a hug from his mother, Ngoi Van, as family, including sister Dr. Sapa Pham, and brother-in-law John Doan arrive in Springfield for Quoc Pham's graduation from SIU's medical school on Friday.
A hail of bullets killed Quoc Pham’s aunt and injured one of his sisters when his family got onto a boat in southern Vietnam to flee the Southeast Asian country in 1979.
But the chaos following the Communist takeover at the end of the Vietnam War, and the struggles with language, finances and health faced by Pham’s parents after they immigrated to the United States, failed to stop the working-class family from producing a string of college graduates, including Pham and two other siblings — all three of whom completed medical school in Springfield.
“I think it’s the family values we had — education and hard work,” said Pham, one of the 68 newly minted physicians who will receive their degrees today during Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s commencement ceremony at Sangamon Auditorium.
Pham, 28, who will enter SIU’s emergency medicine residency this summer, will receive his doctoral degree while 16 family members from Texas and Louisiana watch from the audience.
They include two of the Pham children who escaped North Vietnamese gunfire: Quoc Pham’s brother, Dr. Cuong Pham, 35, a 2002 graduate of SIU’s medical school who practices family medicine in Houston; and his sister, Dr. Sapa Pham, 33, who graduated in 2008 and is training in New Orleans to become an ophthalmologist.
Quoc Pham’s 22-year-old brother, Nam, who hopes to be accepted into a medical school in the next few years, also will be watching his big brother walk across the stage to receive his doctoral hood.
Diligence, hard work
The success of the eight children of Ngoi Van and her late husband, Nhat Pham, was nurtured by a family that made ends meet with work in a meat-processing plant in Wichita, Kan., and on fishing and shrimp boats in Vietnam, Louisiana and Texas.
More recently, Quoc Pham’s older siblings have devoted part of their salaries as medical and business professionals to support their younger siblings and parents.
“Everybody in my family worked,” he said. “If you’re not working, something’s wrong.”
Money for the children’s educations came came from family earnings, scholarships, grants and loans.
And the three children who became doctors got into medical school with the help of SIU’s Medical/Dental Education Preparatory Program on SIU’s Carbondale campus.
The two-year MEDPREP program assists economically and educationally disadvantaged college graduates from across the country to improve their academic performance in hopes of being accepted to medical or dental schools.
“We can’t deny that there were a lot of opportunities offered to us,” Quoc Pham said, noting that academic success didn’t come easily for him and his siblings, the children of people with the equivalent of a third-grade education.
“My parents were uneducated people,” he said. “They couldn’t help us with our homework or anything like that. It was just from diligence and hard work, and it kind of trickled down to everyone else in the family.”
Pham’s father was a fisherman, and his mother was a homemaker who helped sell the fish they caught in their village in southern Vietnam. A few years after the war ended, Nhat Pham wanted to move his family away from the oppression of the North Vietnamese and join friends and relatives who had settled in the United States.
Pham said his father served time in a concentration camp after the family was caught trying to escape. Nhat Pham succeeded on another attempt and eventually reached the United States, then made arrangements for his family to join him in Wichita, where an American family was willing to sponsor the Phams during the transition.
Pham said his mother, who then had three children, got on a boat with the children, but her sister-in-law, while on the boat, was killed by government soldiers shooting from the shore as they tried to prevent the family from leaving.
The sister-in-law’s daughter made in on the boat and was later adopted by the family, which first traveled to a Hong Kong refugee camp and then to Wichita. That daughter, Rido Pham, 33, who will be in the audience during commencement, eventually became an optometrist.
Another of the children fleeing the North Vietnamese soldiers, Pham’s oldest sister, still carries a scar from a gunshot wound. She went on to become an occupational therapist in Houston.
‘Kind of blessed’
Quoc Pham was born in Wichita and completed most of his education in public schools in Pearland, Texas.
After completing the MEDPREP program, Pham, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Baylor University, could have applied to other medical schools. He said he chose SIU because of his siblings’ good experiences there.
SIU’s medical school in most cases admits only students who are Illinois residents, but MEDPREP students from out of state can establish residency during the time they are in Carbondale.
Pham said he didn’t regret his decision to choose SIU. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie among his classmates, instructors and faculty from SIU’s Office of Diversity, Multicultural and Minority Affairs.
“We’re just a small, close-knit family,” he said. “I’m kind of blessed to be at a school like this.”
That supportive environment was important during his second year of medical school, when his father, a longtime smoker, died at age 64 from lung cancer in 2007.
Ironically, it was his father’s interactions with doctors during a long bout with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that helped convince Pham and his older siblings to pursue medical careers. Pham said all three siblings, who speak English and Vietnamese, helped translate for their parents.
Pham, whose fiancee is a speech pathologist in the Rochester schools, said he doesn’t know where he will settle after he completes his emergency medicine residency in Springfield.
“But wherever I am, I want to be involved in a rural or underserved community — that I know,” he said. “That’s where I came from.”
Even though he has almost $150,000 in education-related debt, he plans to pitch in financially to help his three younger brothers fulfill their dreams, just as his parents and older siblings helped him.
“I’m ready to do it,” he said. “It’s my responsibility.”
Dean Olsen can be reached at 788-1543.
Dr. Rebecca Johnson, director of the pathology residency training program at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., is the recipient of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s distinguished alumni award for 2010.
Johnson, class of 1978, also is chairman of pathology and clinical laboratories at BMC and clinical professor of pathology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The award from SIU’s Alumni Society Board of Governors recognizes outstanding contributions to medicine and distinguished service to society. It will be presented at the medical school’s commencement today.
SIU med school grads include 21 from area
Twenty-one central Illinois residents are among the 68 physicians and six graduate students in the 36th graduating class at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. The graduates will receive their diplomas during ceremonies today at Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield.
*Dr. Tyler Allison will begin a preliminary pediatrics residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals in Springfield, followed by a child neurology residency at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. He is the son of Mel and Cheryl Allison of Riverton. Allison graduated from Riverton High School in 1998 and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2002.
*Dr. Katherine Avery will begin a general surgery residency at New York Medical College and Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. She is the daughter of Mark and Susan Avery of Champaign. Avery graduated from Decatur’s MacArthur High School in 2002 and Millikin University in 2006.
*Dr. Jennifer DeLuka will begin a pediatrics residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals in Springfield. She is the daughter of Bradley and Barbara DeLuka of Tallula and is married to Gregory Sollenberger of Macomb. DeLuka graduated from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in 2001 and Western Illinois University in 2005.
*Dr. Lonnie Dye III will begin an internal medicine residency at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. He is the son of Ed and Deborah Dye of Riverton. Dye graduated from Riverton High School in 2001 and Western Illinois University in 2005.
*Dr. Kathleen Eichinger will begin a medicine-pediatrics residency at the University of Illinois and St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. She is the daughter of Regina Eichinger of Springfield. Eichinger graduated from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in 2002 and Marquette University in 2006.
*Dr. Adam Houghton will begin a family medicine residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. He is the son of Daniel and Leah Gaye Houghton of Havana and is married to Marie Houghton of Cary. Houghton graduated from Havana High School in 2002 and Augustana College in 2006.
*Dr. Alison Huff will begin an obstetrics and gynecology residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals in Springfield. She is the daughter of Bob Huff and Patricia Huff, both of Springfield. Huff graduated from Springfield High School in 2000, Miami University in 2004 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.
*Dr. John Hulsen III will begin a plastic surgery residency at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus. He is the son of Jack and Sarah Hulsen of Springfield. Hulsen graduated from Ursuline Academy in 1999 and Illinois College in 2003.
*Dr. Richard Jeisy will begin an emergency medicine residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals. He is the son of Larry and Sue Jeisy of Elwin and is married to Rachel Jeisy of Downers Grove. Jeisy graduated from Meridian High School in 2000 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004.
*Dr. Victoria Johnson will begin an internal medicine-psychiatry residency at University of California-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. She is the daughter of Bill and Jane Johnson of Pittsfield. Johnson graduated from Pittsfield High School in 2001 and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005.
*Dr. Robert Kaufman will begin a diagnostic radiology residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals in Springfield. He is the son of Bob and Kathy Kaufman of Decatur and is married to Buffi Kaufman of Oreana. Kaufman graduated from Argenta-Oreana High School in 2002 and the University of Arizona in 2006.
*Dr. Eric R. Kotal will begin an emergency medicine residency at Michigan State University-Kalamazoo. He is the son of Tom and Penny Kotal of Decatur. Kotal graduated from MacArthur High School in 2000, Millikin University in 2005 and Tulane University in 2006.
*Dr. Mark Krohe will begin an anesthesiology residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. He is the son of Sharon Krohe of Virginia and the late Gale Krohe. He and his wife, Lindsey Krohe of Loami, have a daughter, Peyton. Krohe graduated from Virginia High School in 2001 and the University of Illinois Springfield in 2005.
*Dr. Heath Laughlin will begin a diagnostic radiology residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals in Springfield. He is the son of Lonnie and Debbie Laughlin of Litchfield. He and his wife, Lindsey Laughlin of Litchfield, have three children, Mia, Jack and Bode. Laughlin graduated from Litchfield Senior High School in 2001 and Greenville College in 2005.
*Dr. Ashley Moja will begin an internal medicine residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. She is the daughter of Denis Moja and Dr. Joan Barenfanger of Springfield. Moja graduated from Springfield High School in 2002 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.
*Dr. Kaitlin Morton will begin a family medicine residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. She is the daughter of Dr. Scott and Laura Morton of Springfield and is married to Dr. Justin Henry of Swansea, who also is a member of the graduating class. Morton graduated from Lutheran High School in 2002 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.
*Dr. Justin Parker will begin a family medicine residency at SIU and its affiliated hospitals in Decatur. He is the son of Joe and Lynn Parker of Pawnee. Parker graduated from Pawnee High School in 2001 and Butler University in 2005.
*Dr. Andrea Bulkley Reidy will begin a preliminary surgery residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. She is the daughter of Dr. Reginald Bulkley of Springfield and Angie Bulkley of Gold Canyon, Ariz. She is married to Dr. Michael Reidy of St. Charles, Mo., who also is a member of the graduating class. Reidy graduated from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in 2002 and Illinois Wesleyan University in 2006.
*Dr. Brandt Whitehurst will begin a general surgery residency at the University of Kansas in Wichita. He is the son of Curtis Whitehurst of Petersburg and Dr. Carlos and Lisa Chua of Spring, Texas. He and his wife, Angel Whitehurst of Meridian, Miss., have twin sons, Oliver and Weston. Whitehurst graduated from Glenwood High School in 1999, Illinois State University in 2003 and SIU Carbondale in 2006.
*Dr. Kendra Woods will begin a pediatrics residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. She is the daughter of Gary and Linda Woods of Pitts-field. Woods graduated from Pittsfield High School in 2002 and Truman State University in 2006.
*Ashley Satorius received her master’s degree in molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry. She is the daughter of Jim and Marsha Satorius of Petersburg. Satorius graduated from PORTA High School in 2004 and the University of Illinois Springfield in 2008.
Other physician graduates and their hometowns are: Dr. Mark Adams Sr. of Louisville, Ky., Dr. Rachel Ade of Moline, Dr. Sumer Kay Allensworth of Hamilton, Dr. Amber Avila of Geneseo, Dr. Teresa Baker of Inglewood, Calif., Dr. Catherine Berjohn of Peoria, Dr. Justin Brooks of Centralia, Dr. Danielle Carter of Wilmington, Dr. Junaia Carter of Houston, Texas, Dr. Jason Crowner of Nauvoo, Dr. Melissa Dawson of Heyworth, Dr. Deanna Deschler of Champaign, Dr. Othniel Doolittle of Carbondale, Dr. Rebecca Durkin of Flossmoor, Dr. Chinelo Echeazu of Chicago, Dr. Sarah Falcon of Peoria, Dr. Justin Fischer of Benson, Dr. Kristen Fisher of Alton, Dr. Kimberly Forte of Eutaw, Dr. Idelle Fraser of San Jose, Calif., Dr. Keith Georger of Metropolis, Dr. Heather Gray of O’Fallon, Dr. David Hauslein of Galesburg, Dr. Justin Henry of Swansea, Dr. Stephen Hill of Normal, Dr. Travis Jameson of Potomac, Dr. Angela Johnson of Bloomington, Dr. Adam King of Mendon, Dr. Ashley Kohaus of Bloomington, Dr. Mani Latifi of Carbondale, Dr. Christopher Lawrance of Champaign, Dr. Kerri Lockhart of Chicago, Dr. Erin Lynch of Bloomington, Dr. Gina Paulauskis of Glen Carbon, Dr. Quoc V. Pham of Pearland, Texas, Dr. Laura (James) Radel of Lawrenceville, Dr. Michael Reidy of St. Charles, Mo., Dr. Valerie (Mazzocco) Roth of Champaign, Dr. Jonathan Shirazi of Tuscola, Dr. Aisha (Covington) Simms of Corpus Christi, Texas, Dr. Drew Spencer of Marseilles, Dr. George Stanton of Watseka, Dr. Ashley Starwalt of Mattoon, Dr. Katie Towles of Peoria, Dr. Joshua Turner of Belknap, Dr. Adam Wallace of Union, Dr. Kristine Waters of Dunlap and Dr. James Waymack II of Milan.
The graduate students include Teresa Anguiano of Zion, Julian Fiorini of Rock Falls, and Natalie Mills of Houston, Texas, who have earned their master’s degrees in molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry. Mingyu Liu of China earned his doctorate in molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry, and Vijay Walia of India, earned his doctorate in pharmacology.
Congratulations Doctor Quoc Pham! What a wonderful story of hard work and cooperation by your whole family. Good Luck in you future.
A story to inspire everyone.
Throw the bums out
It is very gratifying to read of inspiring success stories about immigrants who entered this country legally.
What a great family! To escape the oppression of socialism, come here and raise such successful children with excellent work values is awesome! I truly wish more people raised their kids in this way.
Congratulations to ‘ALL’ of this years graduates.You and your loved ones should be proud of this high accomplishment. Best of Luck to everyone!