Assistant Professor Tam Nguyen, Ph.D., M.S.N./M.P.H, RN, was a toddler when her family boarded a small fishing boat to escape Vietnam, hiding women and children under ice. They were among the refugees known as “boat people” who fled their country in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the fall of Saigon. A U.S. oil tanker rescued them at sea and took them to Malaysia, where Nguyen, her parents, and her brother stayed in a refugee camp until they could immigrate to the United States, where they eventually settled in California. “So many people helped us along the way, and that has given me motivation to give back to the community,” Nguyen said. “I think being a nurse is what I’m meant to do in my life. I feel like it is my calling.”
Nguyen pursued nursing at the University of Maryland, then earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2006 and 2012, respectively, sharpening her scholarly focus on health promotion, psychometrics, and strategies for engaging hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations in health sciences research. Her dissertation explored whether health literacy affected the ability of Vietnamese Americans to manage chronic diseases such as high blood pressure. She joins the faculty with several years of clinical, teaching, and research experience at Johns Hopkins, most recently as a faculty research associate, and said the Connell School beckoned because of its liberal arts and social justice traditions, opportunities for multidisciplinary research, and affiliations with teaching hospitals and community organizations. Nguyen is teaching a master’s-level course on evidence-based practice. “I’m excited about the opportunity to grow and contribute to the University and School of Nursing,” she said.
—by Debra Bradley Ruder, photograph by Caitlin Cunningham