Dr. Ly Nguyen is a board-certified ophthalmologist that specializes in cataract, oculoplastic surgeries, and facial rejuvenation procedures. She is an internationally recognized doctor, author, speaker and mentor to her community. She recently shared with us a few stories in life in her path to becoming a healer, surgeon, and community mentor.
Some say that necessity is the mother of all inventions. As a young girl in the bleak Hong Kong refugee camp in the 1980s, Dr Nguyen wanted a set of earrings like the older girls. However, with no money and no places to get her ears pierced, she took it upon herself to follow her curiosity and created a set of original earrings of her own. She removed mattress coil springs from her sleeping cot and clipped these to her earlobes. As she reflects now with a smile, “not exactly the most fashionable pair but it was what I had then!” Over the course of next few weeks she slowly pierced her own ears with these springs. It was what she called her first small step in her future career as a surgeon.
After attending Brown University for her undergraduate studies, Dr. Nguyen completed her medical training at the John A Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawai’i. Under the tutelage of her mentor, the late Dr. Jorge Camara, she completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of Colorado Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute. She cultivated a deep sense of empathy and compassion for her patients through the variety of cases she encountered during her rotations.
Two of the most memorable surgeries that Dr. Nguyen performed provide a glimpse into her never waning desire to make a positive impact in her patients’ lives. While in her General Surgery internship, she had a patient with gangrene of his leg that had severe infections. Without further medical attention he could have die due to the septic shock. Dr. Nguyen and her team’s only option then was to amputate a portion of this patient’s leg to save his life. It was a gut wrenching and emotional experience to save his life but at the same time, his life would be changed forever. It was a lesson in compassion and resiliency.
Years later, while in private practice at Eye Florida, a young mother came to see Dr. Nguyen regarding her loss of vision. She was diagnosed with mature cataract secondary to uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Due to the delays and long battles with her insurance carrier to get her surgery approved, by the time she met with Dr Nguyen, she was legally blind in both eyes. After Dr. Nguyen took on her case and performed the complex cataract surgery, this mother’s response at the post-operative appointment was filled with joy and gratitude. She has not seen the face of her teenage son since the onset of her cataracts a few years earlier. With tears of joy this young mother expressed to Dr. Nguyen, “The last time I saw my son he was tiny and now he is so tall and grown up!” It was inspiring to be able to give this mother her sight back and for her to see the world in its beauty once again.
Dr Nguyen is always honing and enhancing her skills as an eye surgeon to deliver the best possible care to her patients. Helping her patients see clearly is but one way she gives back to the community. When she is not practicing medicine, she sets out to shape the next generation of ophthalmologist. Dr Nguyen has published many peer-reviewed articles in prominent medical journals including the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, American Journal of Ophthalmology, and Archives of Ophthalmology. She contributes as a board member for the Orlando Health St. Cloud Board of Trustee, and the An Bang Professional organization. Two of her University of Central Florida School of Medicine mentees were recently selected to present a research paper at the Women in Ophthalmology Annual Meeting 2020 titled, “Postoperative outcome of cataract surgery with history of diabetes mellitus and socioeconomic status.”
Writing and sharing her knowledge with her community has been a lifelong passion. One of her favorite author and contemporary of Vietnamese heritage is Viet Thanh Nguyen. Dr Nguyen’s lifelong passion-project is to document and share her family’s journey out of Vietnam, through Hong Kong’s refugee camp and finally, immigrating to America. Dr. Nguyen recalls her childhood struggles and offers this insight, “These memories are stories of where we came from. These are important lessons of hope, determination, and hard work… all necessary to overcome life’s challenges and to achieve success in the wonderful country we live in.”
Credits: Article written by B. Chen,
Photography by Kimberly Jefcoat