Meet Mike M. Nguyen, MD, MPH, associate professor of clinical urology at the USC Institute of Urology of Keck Medicine of USC.
Dr. Nguyen is an expert in several areas including the treatment of prostate cancer, kidney cancer and kidney stones, and the prevention of urologic diseases. He is also an expert in robotic and minimally invasive surgery. Here’s what you won’t find on his resume:
He and his family are Vietnamese refugees known as “boat people.”
“I was born in Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon, many people immigrated to the United States. In 1980, my parents brought me and my brother and sister to the U.S. as boat people. [The term refers to the approximately 2 million Vietnamese who fled in small, overcrowded boats to escape the communist regime.] We came first to California, but went to Chicago so my father, who is a physician, could retrain and work as a doctor in the U.S. I had the opportunity to go back recently to give a lecture in Saigon and moderate research sessions with Vietnamese medical residents. I think it was a good opportunity to have left during the war and then have been able to come back and help the medical community there.”
His college minor was visual arts.
“I enjoy art, and I think it balances well with science. My father is a physician, my mother is a pharmacist, my sister is a pediatrician and my brother is in family practice. I am the youngest in my family. I respected what they were doing, and I liked science and medicine so it was the right direction for me. I still try to find the time to paint. In fact, when my wife was pregnant with our daughter, she would tell me the dreams that she had about the baby. I interpreted her dreams into paintings and we have those hanging in our home.”
Even his mom and dad asked, “Why urology?” when he chose it as his specialty.
“I think no one really understands what medicine is all about until they reach medical school.
I was interested in surgery but when I did my rotation through general surgery, I knew that was not where I wanted to be. When I rotated through urology, it appealed to me. Urology combines innovation and technology. Urologists were among the first to use robotics and endoscopy. Once exposed to urology, I realized how expansive it is.”
He earned his Master of Public Health (MPH) later in his career.
“Many physicians get a public health degree early on in their training. I think once you go through residency, public health seems distant from what you are focusing on for your future. I went for my MPH after being a faculty member for a few years. It gave me a better sense of how to combine public health with medicine. It really influenced how I looked at my patients. I became interested in the prevention of urological disease.”
If not medicine, his alternative career is not what you would think it would be.
“I ask my residents the question, ‘If you weren’t a physician, then what career would you have chosen?’ I am sure people think that because of my visual arts background that I would have become a medical illustrator or a graphic artist. But I would own a fish store. I used to keep an aquarium, and I think it would be a serene lifestyle with little worries. I think fish are very calming.”
Dr. Mike Nguyen specializes in the prevention and care of urologic diseases, prostate cancer and kidney stone disease at the USC Institute of Urology in Los Angeles.