Student’s late father continues to fuel her aspirations

First-generation college graduate Kelly Bang, D.O.’24, lost her father, Chau Nguyen, to COVID-19 complications in July. At DMU, this academic year she and classmate Jiyoon Song, D.O.’24, created a mentorship program matching DMU students with pre-medicine students at Drake University and Iowa State University.

My dad is the most selfless and hardworking individual I know. He was a lieutenant of the 7th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), during the Vietnam War and fled after Communist forces seized control of South Vietnam in 1975. He was then transported to a refugee camp in the Philippines where he met my mom. Without knowledge of English and barely anything in his pockets, he worked hard to start a new life in the United States.

Kelly Bang celebrates DMU’s 2019 White Coat Ceremony with her father, Chau Nguyen; her mother, Thuy Bang; and nephew, Dylan Yates.

Our family didn’t have much, but my parents did their best to make sure we had enough. My dad worked long hours as a mechanic and always encouraged my sister and me to follow our dreams because he didn’t have that opportunity back home. He was my best friend and my cheerleader – the one who picked me up every time I fell and believed in me when I struggled to believe in myself.

My dad is the reason why I want to be a doctor, and his support has helped me build confidence in my ability to become one. I will never forget how elated he was the day I was accepted into DMU. I told my dad he could finally retire and not worry anymore, but he wanted to keep working to support me through medical school. He continued working as a full-time semi-truck mechanic until he passed at age 76.

It has been difficult balancing medical school while grieving the loss of a parent during the pandemic. Life doesn’t stop, and it’s hard finding solace amidst the chaos. Some days are harder than others, but what helps keep me going is remembering my dad’s spirit still lives within me. I have a deeper appreciation for the personality traits I’ve acquired from him and seek comfort knowing I am a product of my parents’ resilience and sacrifices.

Even though my dad is no longer with me, his teachings and support continue. His passing taught me to not take health for granted and to view death as an inevitable yet beautiful part of life…I am more empathetic to others who experience loss and comfortable supporting my peers and future patients going through similar struggles.

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