Loyola University Maryland
May 17, 2012
When Anna Nguyen's father, Sang, was diagnosed with colon cancer, she had a lot of questions. As a 12-year-old, she wanted to understand more about the risks of cancer spreading and the impact it had on the body.
A decade later, she is on a path toward being one of the doctors who can answer those questions.
After Nguyen graduates from Loyola University Maryland on Saturday, she will prepare for a year as a Fulbright scholar in Switzerland. She will study sarcomas, a rare malignant form of tumors that are different from her father's cancer, but carry similar concerns about spreading that worried her as a child.
Some of Nguyen's strongest memories of her father's cancer experience were doctors constantly checking on him, explaining treatment and answering questions.
"I really wanted to offer that type of service to other people," said Nguyen, who grew up in Virginia. "I was really inspired by that."
Researching cancer medicine wasn't initially part of that inspiration, but she was exposed to research within her first week on Loyola's campus. Arthur Sutherland, director of national fellowships, spoke to her and a group of freshmen about research opportunities they could take advantage of.
Having taken advanced courses in biology and chemistry through the International Baccalaureate program in high school, Nguyen jumped on the chance to explore more in-depth learning in laboratories. Sutherland recalls her seeking him out to discuss research fellowships early her freshman year.
"She had a clear idea of where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do," Sutherland said.
Nguyen ended up spending a summer in a lab in Germany, and another in Switzerland, in the same lab where she will be conducting sarcoma research.
Beyond that, she plans to earn both doctoral and medical degrees so she can continue to pursue research but also care for patients -- just like the doctors who helped her father survive cancer.
-- Scott Dance