|Currently in the residency phase of medical training, Chee Vang believes his calling is to serve the Hmong community.|
Sometimes when you return home, you discover what you went away to find. Chee Vang, '07, grew up in a Hmong neighborhood in St. Paul and went off to UMD seeking a rewarding, exciting career. His mom, a registered nurse, wanted him to study medicine. Vang objected. "I wanted to design video games," Vang said. So he majored in computer science, but along the way, he took natural science classes and worked with children as a volunteer in the Duluth schools.
Back in St. Paul, Vang got a job working in the computer industry and discovered it wasn't as exciting as he had hoped. Helping Hmong refugee children learn English was much more rewarding, and he reconsidered becoming a medical doctor. He took a few prerequisite classes and, in 2010, he was accepted into the University of Minnesota Medical School. Vang is currently in the internship and residency phase of his training. Medical school has challenged him to embrace his two cultures.
"Deep-seated Hmong principles about health and illness often conflict with Western medicine," Vang said. Hmong believe that good health is based on spiritual balance. If an organ or body part is removed, the body is not considered spiritually whole. Vang is sure his calling is to serve the Hmong community. "I'm considering hospice care. There is a great need for doctors who respect Hmong spiritual beliefs," Vang said.
The communication, leadership, and management skills Vang obtained in his UMD computer science classes help him as a doctor, but Vang said leaving home was the most important lesson. He gained more of a worldview and shared experiences with a diverse group of fellow students. "I saw my own culture with new eyes," he said.
Written by Cheryl Reitan, 2013