Our physicians and students tell the osteopathic profession’s story better than anyone. This week, we sat down with Vivi Dang to learn more about her story: what called her into osteopathic medicine, and her advice for future students.
What’s your story?
My story will always begin with my parents. They immigrated here from Vietnam and from nothing, they worked hard to give me the life I live today. The sacrifices they made for me reminds me how privileged I am to be in medical school, and they fuel my desire to give back to my community in as many ways as possible. During undergrad, I worked in research related to autism, depression, generalized and social anxiety, and how lifestyle choices affect the physiology of the brain. After undergrad, I worked as a scribe and medical assistant for three years in internal medicine and urgent care, while intermittently volunteering at a food pantry and tutoring homeless children.
As cheesy as it sounds, I wouldn’t say that I can pick out a specific point in my life where I consciously chose to go into medicine; it was something that I always worked towards because I just knew it was what I wanted to do—there was never any other goal. I am simply mesmerized by human biology: that we are able to develop a consciousness and a unique personality, all from a ball of cells, and that our bodies have all these amazing abilities to keep us alive. Coupled with my drive to help people, going into medicine just made the most sense.
Why did you Choose DO?
I chose DO because osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is another tool that I can use to help my patients—how could I say no to that?
How collaborative is the learning environment in medical school?
So collaborative! This was something I was worried about when applying, because I didn’t want to be in a cutthroat environment on top of a stressful one. I feel comfortable tapping on the shoulder of my peers and asking them if they could help me clarify my understanding of something we’ve learned—even if I’m not necessarily their closest friend. Likewise, I’ll share my knowledge and notes with anyone who finds them helpful. We all have the same end goal—to help our patients. To do that, we need to be unselfish, open, and humble throughout our education.
What extracurricular and/or research opportunities are there/or are you involved in?
There are so many opportunities for medical students: specialty interest clubs, community outreach and political advocacy groups, social committees, intramural sports, wet labs, dry labs, clinical research, and much more. If nothing catches your eye, you can often find a way to create something new.
I am a leader in the Pediatric Interest Group, and a member of the Emergency Medicine Club, Community Outreach Committee, and Student National Medical Association (SNMA). I’ve been involved in writing a contribution for the Student Survival Guide, giving school tours and talking to interviewees, visiting high schools to talk about the road to medical school, performing physical exams for sport clearances, visiting elementary schools to teach kids about anatomy, sciences, and what being a doctor is like, and putting on a trick-or-treat for kids who allowed us to practice physical exams on them. Over the summer, I interned at Advanced Clinical Research and was able to witness and partake in many aspects of clinical research. It was also a great opportunity to keep my patient interaction skills sharp while practicing phlebotomy (doing blood smears and taking vitals).
What advice would you offer future and current medical students?
I highly encourage getting involved as much as you can. It’s easy for me to feel bogged down and discouraged when I’m constantly staring at a screen, studying text, and discussing hypothetical patients. Going out and interacting with my community reminds me why I wanted to become a doctor in the first place, and renews my strength to keep pushing forward.
Vivi Dang is an OMS-III student at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine. Prior to joining ICOM’s inaugural class in 2018, Student Doctor Dang finished her undergraduate degree at the University of California San Diego.