Vietnamese-American parents, like many other Asian-American parents, often push their children towards reputable professions, such as becoming engineers, lawyers, professors, and, of course, the often cited medical doctors. With the latter, those in the healthcare industry are certainly knowledgeable of the fact that general practitioners are currently being sought after in the United States because the field had been saturated with specialists. But for the next cohort of Vietnamese-American doctors, the demand is different. Both general practitioners as well as specialists are highly coveted, and their desirability is high due to various factors.

In America, grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles are experiencing extended longevity, while more and more parents, aunts, and uncles are observing, or have recently commemorated, their semicentennial celebrations. Together, these two populations are the driving force for a greater number of Vietnamese-American doctors. This could be because these older generations are not well-versed in English, especially when it comes to medical terminology. Or, even when communicating in English is not an issue, these age groups may prefer to speak in their native tongue. And while they could rely on children, grandchildren, or interpreters, these older adults may simply want the privacy of a one-on-one examination with their health providers. Thus, those who are fluent in both Vietnamese and English amongst the up-and-coming group of Vietnamese-American doctors will no doubt have a steady flow of patients for decades.

In Vietnam, overall educational opportunities are gradually improving. However, there are still shortcomings. Training quality, such as that necessary to become a medical doctor, “remains low and fails to keep pace with the socioeconomic development of the country.”  So, even though the number of doctors graduating from Vietnamese medical schools is increasing by approximately 25% every year, there is still only about 8 doctors per 10,000 people in larger cities and only 1 doctor, if even, per 10,000 people in rural areas.  This leads to situations, such as midwives fulfilling the roles of OB/GYNs or patients having to travel overseas for care. Even within domestic hospitals, the quality of care is poor, since doctors are examining as many as 100 patients per day. Hence, it is clear that bilingual Vietnamese-American doctors will be immediately valuable in Vietnam. The drawback, of course, would be the fact that salaries for medical doctors in Vietnam are not as attractive as that of those practicing in more developed countries. Nonetheless, if healthcare providers are entering the field because they are passionate about aiding those with medical needs (and not because of parental pressure), then serving the population of Vietnam is something these Vietnamese-American doctors may want to consider. The likelihood of a patient shortage will probably not be an issue for scores to come.

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  1. Physician Assistant isn’t to bad of a job to consider either. I’m a first generation Vietnamese kid going to get my Masters in Physician Assistant Studies in 2012. It’s a very promising career and I see this profession having a huge potential for members of my generation to give back to Vietnamese community with a shorter amount of schooling/training, more freedom and enabling physicians to take care of more patients then they would on their own. Think about it 😉

  2. I really commend anyone who is able to jump into the health care industry. As with any career there are some setbacks as well as sacrifices to be made. I would like to emphasize on the younger generation who is thinking about going into the industry to take your time. Parental pressures and societal influences can overshadow what it is you really want in your heart – especially if you’re still a teenager and not exactly sure of who you are. 

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