FACES for the Future Success Stories
Linh Dao, 24, a native of Vietnam, is the first graduate of the FACES for the Future program at Children’s Hospital Oakland to be accepted to medical school. Linh was part of the first cohort of FACES students, starting in 2000 and graduating in 2003.
In the fall of 2009, Linh enrolled at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Linh is particularly interested in becoming a surgeon, influenced by time she spent alongside Children’s Hospital anesthesiologist Mark Escajeda, MD. “I really love surgery,” she said. “Shadowing Dr. Escajeda during surgery, I developed a fascination for the human body. He explained to me what was going on, including the patient’s condition.”
In turn, Dr. Escajeda was touched by Linh’s presence. “Her bearing, her curiosity, everything said she was going to go to medical school, from the very beginning,” said Dr. Escajeda. “She seemed to be a very giving person, the kind of person who will make a fine physician.”
At the end of her rotation with Dr. Escajeda and another anesthesiologist, Nancy Sandoval, MD, Linh gave each a small paper swan she’d made herself. “It was one of the more heartfelt gifts that I’ve ever received,” said Dr. Escajeda. Linh’s father, Ky Dao, brought the family to the United States when she was 8. It was the mid-1990s, the United States had normalized relations with the reunited Vietnam, and former prisoners of the new government, like Linh’s father, were allowed to bring their families to the U.S. He said he had been imprisoned for five years because he’d served in the South Vietnamese Navy.
Linh and her father are close. From 7th through 11th grades, as soon as she arrived home from school, she would jump into her father’s pickup truck to help him collect cardboard from small East Bay liquor and grocery stores. For 10 years he’s been selling the cardboard to a West Oakland recycler to supplement the family’s income. He’s also worked 10 years in a day job at Crystal Pacific Mattress in Oakland.
Linh’s hard-working family also prizes education. Linh and three of her siblings have all either attended the University of California, Berkeley, or are there now.
Her eldest sister studied public health, and is a social worker in San Jose. Her younger brother is studying science, and her younger sister is interested in nutrition and currently studying in Australia through a study-abroad program at Cal.
Linh herself graduated in 2003 from Oakland’s Life Academy High School of Health and Bioscience as well as the FACES program. She went on to U.C. Berkeley, helped by a Gates Millennium Scholarship, studied pre-med and received her BA in integrative biology in December 2007.
Prior to her enrollment in medical school, Linh had been doing tutoring, caring for her 5-year-old niece and doing translation for two PBS FRONTLINE/World TV stories.
Linh completed her soaring launch from FACES to the Future by delivering the keynote speech at the 2009 FACES graduation ceremony in Oakland.
(Reprinted from PEDNEWS. Written & photographed by Tom Levy)