From Vietnam to the American dream

Vital Signs » Fall 2014

The Vietnam War ended with the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973 and the unification of Vietnam under Communist control two years later. More than 3 million people were killed in the conflict, including as many as 2 million civilians on both sides, some 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters, between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, and more than 58,000 Americans. Waves of refugees fled the country in the aftermath of the war, including the families of two Boonshoft School of Medicine students.

Brian Dinh's parents arrived in the U.S. with $26

In 1980, Brian Dinh’s parents were forced to flee from Vietnam with nothing but a small suitcase and almost no money. After two years, his parents arrived in the United States with only $26.

Dinh credits a Dayton woman, Jenny McConnell, with changing their lives. She provided his parents with money and a home and helped finance his father’s education at the University of Dayton, where he received a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

While his parents helped pay for some of his undergraduate education, Dinh still carried a significant amount of debt into medical school.

Despite his debt, Dinh, a fourth-year medical student, has a passion for helping others in Third World countries. He has received scholarships that have helped finance his medical mission trips. He took a month-long medical mission trip to Vietnam after his first year. “I have seen how many people in different parts of the world continue to have little access to medical care,” he said. “I plan to enter the field of internal medicine and to someday travel to Third World countries to help provide care for a month each year.”

Because of additional scholarships he has received, he will be able to afford another medical mission trip to Peru in February 2015.

Thao Tran dedicates her life to medicine after her mother survives cancer

When Thao Tran was born, she lived in an impoverished neighborhood in Vietnam marked by violence. Her father had grown up during the Vietnam War. But her aunt and uncle were able to flee the country in 1975 as boat people.

In 1993 when she was two years old, Tran and her family immigrated to Dayton. Life was better, but it was a struggle. Uneducated, her father could only get work sewing garments. She wore hand-me-downs and ate the subsidized lunches at school.

Despite the family’s poverty, her father encouraged her to get her education. Her teachers encouraged her. But adversity struck her family again. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Determined to help her mother, she became her mother’s interpreter at doctor’s appointments. Eventually, her mother was declared cancer free. Tran dedicated her life to medicine in thanksgiving for her mother’s recovery.

Tran, a third-year medical student, plans to go into primary care medicine and serve the Medicaid population in Dayton. She received the Boonshoft Scholars Scholarship and Choose Ohio First Primary Care Scholarship.

“I am going to work as hard as I can to be the best doctor I can be,” she said. “I know my calling is to reach out to people with limited income and few resources.” Brian Dinh’s parents arrived in the U.S. with $26

Your support can give students like Dinh and Tran an opportunity to fulfill their potential, pursue their dreams, and prepare for a lifetime of service to their patients, their communities, and the world. The life-changing impact of your contribution is almost limitless. So please visit to make your gift to the Boonshoft School of Medicine today.

Last edited on 02/19/2016.