Prof. Thach Nguyen’s speech


Dear faculties, honored guests, students and families,

Today marks the first day of the academic school year at Tan Tao University. I would like to begin by congratulating all the students for your bravery by being present here today. As newly admitted students, I’m sure there is an everlasting feeling of nervousness and apprehension. So let me take this opportunity to offer a bit of advices to both our medical and newly admitted students.
1. First, life is full of adventures. Coming to Tan Tao, which is located in the middle of nowhere, is a real life adventure. Deciding to enroll into medical school is an entirely new adventure in itself. Rather than exploring the mountains of Sapa, the temple complex of Angkor Wat, or the jungle of urban America, you chose to discover the human body with its amazing strengths and obvious weaknesses. As an avid explorer, you will quickly realize that anatomy, chemistry, and physiology can be unbelievably exciting because there are just so many unanswered questions.

2. However, as students and especially medical students, we rarely have the opportunity to embark on a real six year leisure sightseeing trip. We are preparing to explore and discover our world, which consists of the human body and mind. It is a scientific exploration in which we are expected to bring back many new and exciting discoveries to protect and benefit human life. If not, it is a failed exploratory trip. In this dangerous and treacherous trip, we cannot succeed if we go alone. We have to work together, to overcome all the obstacles and ensure our survival.

3. When we pursue the scientific exploration of the human body, our responsibility is not only to observe, but also to act. We have to offer a solution or treatment to the medical problem. If we are able to interrupt the disease process amongst a large number of individuals or patients, we successfully completed what is called disease management. In some cases, as medical scientists, we will also be required to join the battle against social norms, such as high sodium diets, smoking or alcohol consumption, etc because we are not just innocent observers or bystanders in the community where we live and build our career. We cannot just watch from an academic ivory tower. We are trained to be movers and shakers. This is why we don’t accept the medical or social status quo. We have many questions to ask and if we are able to formulate the right questions, then they will lead us to the right answer. However, if we ask the wrong questions, we will conclude with inaccurate answers.
4. In addition to formulating the right question, we need to learn HOW TO ASK the question.
In Asia’s education system, explicit communication and asking questions can be considered rude and in many occasions, inappropriate. However, in the US, explicit communication is the key to success and challenging your professor can be considered an exciting game. So during this afternoon workshop, listen closely to Dr Thomas Tu and Duane Pinto, both Harvard alumni, who will show you how to ask questions and how to intelligently challenge both your faculties and your colleagues.

My final piece of advice is this: when you finally begin your classes, go with the heart of an explorer and spirit of a team player. Challenge yourself and others. Take every opportunity to discover and learn as much as you possibly can. And don’t just study harder, study SMARTER. And if you are successful in your endeavors, I will get to keep my job. But if you fail, the school will fire me. And I will do everything for you and the school to keep my good paying job. Here is my email and don’t forget to ask the email addresses of many visiting and Vietnamese faculties present here today. Thank you all for listening and I wish you all the success in the world.