Tran Pham Dreams of Applying Her Healthcare MBA to Aid Crowded Hospitals in Vietnam

Katelynn Padron '15
Co-Editor
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As a child, Tran Pham ’16 had asthma and was in and out of packed Vietnamese hospitals. “I have so much experience with the hospitals,” she said, “Since I spent nearly one-third of my childhood in there.”

Pham now plans to use her PLU MBA in Healthcare Management to open a clinic and relieve the crowded healthcare system in her hometown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

As a child, Pham had asthma and was in and out of packed Vietnamese hospitals. “I have so much experience with the hospitals,” she said, “Since I spent nearly one-third of my childhood in there.”

“The crowd is a problem,” Pham said. “Patients from far away try to catch the earliest bus ride to be at these overcrowded public hospitals, some don’t even have enough money to follow through with their entire prescriptions afterward.”

Pham wished she could help the burdened hospitals. “I thought the only way to help others was to be a doctor,” Pham said. “I’m not interested in learning medicine, so I stopped dreaming.”

A few years later, Pham participated in student exchange programs to attend high school and community college in the United States. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

When the time came for Pham to consider graduate programs, her childhood friend Henry Tieu ‘14, told her to look into PLU. Tieu came to PLU to study nursing. “He had a really great experience here [at PLU],” Pham said, “He was like ‘Hey, just come over and check out the school.’”

Pham visited PLU and was thrilled at the opportunity to study healthcare management for her MBA.

Pham has been challenged and encouraged by her executive peers in the MBA program. “It’s really interesting that our school had just one generic program for our executive people and for people who just graduated like me,” Pham said. She said that it was initially hard for her to keep up with the industry jargon her professional peers were using, but once she learned the lingo she realized how valuable their experiences were.

“They help me understand the healthcare industry and the management side of things,” she said. “They coach me on how to put together this proposal or this marketing plan and they are really willing to learn from me too,” Pham said.

Along with executive peers who help her learn, Pham said she has gotten a lot of practical experience in the MBA program. Pham and her peers just finished a project comparing the financial information of three health care companies and made recommendations on how the companies could strengthen their positions. “It really helped me gain more knowledge in the field and what’s going on,” Pham said.

Pham (right) and her family in Tokyo (Photo: Tran Pham).

After an intensive first semester at PLU, Pham took a trip home. She was happy to see some improvements to the Vietnamese health care system, but she said the facilities were still overburdened. She realized that more high-quality clinics would help meet the demand. “We have really great facilities, but we still have to send patients out to Singapore or Australia and things like that for treatments because we don’t have the capacity to do that,” Pham said. “That’s why I want to be in health care.”

After her trip home, Pham discovered her ultimate goal: To open a clinic in Vietnam and help impoverished citizens get good-quality health care. “With the knowledge I have gained about the health care system here in the U.S. after my fall semester,” Pham said, “I realized opening trustworthy clinics that are preferred and sponsored by public hospitals would be a great idea. That way I can help lower income patients.”

Pham is inspired in part by her father. “He started out really poor, we were really poor,” she said. “Now he is a CFO for one of the big companies in Vietnam. If you think about that, he started out with nothing … He just built up his credibility through learning, gaining knowledge, through talking to people–networking.”

While she is at PLU, Pham wants to be a resource for other international students. “I want to be like my dad so that others can look to me as a mentor,” Pham said, “It’s him who gives me that really strong feeling about what I need to do.”

Pham said she would recommend PLU’s MBA program to those considering a graduate program in business. “This is a really good program for students to participate in because we don’t just gain knowledge from the instructors,” Pham said. “You can learn from other people, you can learn from real life stories. It’s a really, really good network for me and for the student who’s coming in.”

Master of Business Administration

The Pacific Lutheran University MBA Program is founded on the cornerstones of leadership, creative innovation, global awareness and ethical responsibility.

After her graduation in 2016, Pham will search for a job in the U.S. healthcare industry to gain more experience. But Pham won’t lose sight of her dream. “I want to run a clinic in Vietnam. That’s my ultimate goal,” she said. “Not in the near future–but down the road when I have experience.”

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