Prepare, work hard, be active
In the mid-2000s, Duong Van Tuyen was one of a growing number of Vietnamese white-collar professionals seeking to enter the international workforce. Competition for scholarships was stiff, and for Duong, the question was less about choosing a university than about just how to be chosen.
So after graduating with a Bachelor’s of Nursing Science from Hanoi Medical University in 2007, Duong quickly built up his résumé. He’s received his first scientific award in 2010 – the gold memorial medal of the National Youth Medical and Pharmaceutical Science Conference. He worked in hospitals and medical college for about four years while gaining certifications for advanced pediatric nursing from Hanoi Medical University-National Pediatric Hospital, three “train the trainer” programs from Queensland University of Technology and NanYang Polytechnic International, and strategic management from Vietnam-Singapore Training Center. He’d been looking at graduate degree programs in Thailand and Australia, and United States, but Taiwan – the Heart of Asia – struck Duong as the better bridge between the East and the West.
An opportunity for study in Taiwan presented itself after a telephone interview with Taipei Medical University (TMU). It seemed to go well, but the acceptance confirmation was somehow delayed so he departed for Taipei weeks late. Despite the slightly rough start, Duong immediately felt welcomed. TMU’s Office of Global Engagement (OGE) and Department of Nursing staff took care of housing and administrative issues, while professors smoothed out course registration. Volunteers helped Duong settle in to life in the dorm.
Dr. Duong Van Tuyen (middle in horizontal stripe) with Taiwanese lab teammates
Taipei Medical University’s excellent teaching
Duong was impressed with the quality of academics and professionalism at TMU. International students were offered Chinese language courses, though in fact many courses were already being taught in English. Internationally educated professors had the experience conducting high-level research and a “scientific sense” that is important to supervising international students. That was ten years ago, says Duong. “And they are even better now.”
Adapting to Taiwan’s culture wasn’t so difficult, but homesickness was a challenge for the only student from Vietnam, “I even cried talking to my parents, I missed them so much.” But Duong kept up a social life and joined all the activities he could, like the International Food Festival, dance competitions, and summer camps. He made friends with students in the dorm, and they helped each other through any troubles. After a few years, with the support of his friends and the application of online communication tools, things went better.
After earning a master’s degree in Nursing, Duong switched gears and entered TMU’s PhD program in Public Health. The mindset shifts from hands-on practicality to taking in the big-picture took some getting used to. He worried about getting a job. It was a stressful time, working day and night. Fortunately, with support from his supervisor, things improved in a few months’ time. Duong’s transformation from a nurse to a public health professional began to take shape. He learned the science, culture, religions, and the international perspectives in the domain of public health. He took a position as a secretary of the Asia Health Literacy Association (ALHA), organizing researches, conferences, and building international cooperation. By doing so, he learned the diplomatic approach and thus strengthened his cross-culture awareness.
“It’s a lot better now,” meaning the stress. “I’ve grown quite fast, in terms of [handling] science and diplomatic relationships with scholars and institutions from around the world.”
Dr. Duong (left front), elected as Vice-President, at AHLA General Assembly meeting 2018
Teaching and Research: “My strength is international cooperation.”
After working in the fields of public health and nutrition for about three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Health Research Institute and TMU, Dr. Duong was offered an Assistant Professor position at TMU’s School of Nutrition and Health Sciences. In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, Dr. Duong also serves as AHLA Vice President, advises hospitals and universities back in Vietnam, and gives yearly guest lectures at Tufts University School of Medicine. In his early career, he has received 12 honorable awards from national and international organizations from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United States, and Vietnam.
The biggest challenges for Dr. Duong now is applying for research grants. Even though, he has been conducting several research projects with limited funding. He’s off to a good start, running three collaborative research projects with more than 30 institutions in Vietnam related to Stroke, Hemodialysis, and COVID-19. His research team also received a one-year research grant for conducting a health literacy related project in Hong Kong. He is also a key investigator of COVID-19 health literacy consortium of 44 countries around the world.
Dr. Duong (left rear) visiting Tufts University School of Medicine as a guest faculty
Well-prepared and be proactive for potential chances
Dr. Duong also looks forward to working with students of his own. International and Taiwanese students are both welcomed, though they all need to write their thesis in English. “I hope some of them can take the challenge!”
As a young professor whose international education and research career has integrated nursing, public health, and nutrition, what advice does Dr. Duong have for students? That is, getting chosen is about preparation and hard work, be proactive, accept and respect others’ differences, and, most importantly—never give up.