Halls of Fame
Dr. James H. Nguyen, M.D.
The next time you encounter a “trouble-maker,” remember James Nguyen.
In his nomination, Pete Maddox said, “I understand that Dr. Nguyen is only 28, and that he has not had much time to accomplish great things...But I can think of no greater opportunity for the College and for the community than to show what can be accomplished when we seek out young people like James Nguyen and allow him to take his own path in education.”
James admits, “When I was in elementary school, I was a big trouble-maker. I would do stuff like change the teacher's instructions on the board. My grades were barely Cs and Ds. Then I got to middle school and my mother looked closely at what I was doing in class and how I was misbehaving.” She said, “James, there is a time in life when you have to settle down and apply yourself. That time is now.”
His mother, Ilene Nguyen, was an employee at Santa Ana College and one day James accompanied her to a staff barbecue, where he met Pete Maddox, who was then President of the Board of Trustees for Rancho Santiago Community College District.
Maddox continued, “When I first met James, he told me of his desire to go to Santa Ana College. He had mapped out his academic objectives, and he needed to start college immediately. But, at 12 years old, James had a problem. His middle school principal would not give him permission to transfer from the seventh grade to Santa Ana College. We talked about his goals and objectives, his troubles in middle school and the rigors of college work. James was not deterred. He knew what he wanted and, most importantly, he was willing to risk failure in order to reach his goals.
“James told me about the time his father had a massive heart attack, and he watched as the doctors literally saved his father's life. James knew at that moment that he wanted to be a cardiologist. But, more than that, James wanted to cure heart disease. And I had no doubt, after listening to this bright, articulate, determined, young man, that he might just do that.
“I walked with James up to the Chancellor's office and introduced him. From there, we went to see Dr. Eddie Hernandez, then Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs. With the doors now opened, James entered Santa Ana College at the age of 12, and proved himself immediately. During his first semester, James formed the Pre-Med Club, became a Student Senator, and worked as a math tutor, often tutoring students twice his age.
James graduated with honors from Santa Ana College at the age of 14 and transferred to the University of California, Irvine (UCI) as a Pre-Med student, where he made the Dean's Honor Roll every quarter of his attendance. In 2000, at a time when (his) friends were graduating high school, he was graduating UCI – with honors.
At 19 years of age, James entered medical school at St. George's University. At 23, when most students are completing their Bachelor's degree, Dr. James Nguyen was beginning his Residency at Orlando Regional Hospital, in Orlando, Florida. During his three years as a Resident, James conducted research in his spare time. His research, titled “Multi-Slice Computer Tomography versus Stress Test on Low-Risk Chest Pain Patients” won top honors in the regional competition for the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter.
James presented his research to the American Heart Association in 2007, where it was noted that his study 'has enormous application potential.'
James was selected to present his research at the National American College of Physicians' Internal Medicine 2009 Conference, where he competed against other resident-presenters from the nation's top-tier health care institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, University of Pennsylvania and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Out of 420 resident-presenters, Dr. James Nguyen was selected the National American College of Physicians Champion. Dr. Nguyen was 25 years old.
Equally astounding is the fact that, at the age of 26, Dr. Nguyen became Chief Resident at the University Medical Center (UMC) Dept. of Internal Medicine in Tucson, Arizona.
He is now a Fellow in the UMC Dept. of Cardiology.
Summarizing his remarkable trajectory toward success, Pete Maddox concluded, “Mere mortals have to work their way up that ladder over a period of many years. But not Dr. Nguyen. He simply sets a goal and reaches it – on his own schedule.
“At 12 years old, James knew his life's calling. And now he's on his way toward achieving the goal he set back in middle school: curing heart disease. I, for one, believe he will achieve that goal – ahead of schedule.”
When asked why he chose this path, James says, “As President John F. Kennedy said, 'We choose to go to the moon...not because it is easy, but because it is hard.' God has blessed me with the talent and knowledge to pursue cardiology. I have to use those gifts. As Martin Luther King said, 'God gave me the message, but Gandhi gave me the method,' which is giving back and using your talents to help others.”
Because he took “the road less traveled,” James Nguyen transformed his life from being a “trouble-maker” to being a “trouble-shooter.”
And that has made all the difference in his life and in the lives of countless others.