Working in hospital compliance and risk management led Ngan Nguyen to pursue a legal career. She noticed that successfully solving the hospital’s legal issues required regulatory expertise and operations savvy in order to effectively implement patient care policies. Thus, she found her way to Georgia State College of Law. Here, she has had the opportunity to combine her practical operation experience with an understanding of health law in order to improve patient care and increase health operations and management efficiency.
However, her journey to law school started nearly 8,000 miles away. She immigrated to California with her family at the age of 2. Not knowing any English, they took jobs at fisheries and factories. Nguyen recalls, around the age of 5, clipping threads off of fabric that her mother brought home in order to make extra money. Her family later found stability when they entered the nail salon business.
From there, they thrived, eventually landing in Dalton, Georgia, where they farmed chickens—her late father’s retirement dream. His other dream was to see her finish college. She was pre-med, earning a bachelor’s degree in international affairs with a minor in environmental health science at the University of Georgia. She was set to take the MCAT, but after volunteering at Mercy Health Center, she decided to earn a master’s degree in public health instead.
“While volunteering, I responded to requests from lawyers who needed medical documentation to support SSI claims, which gave me a peek into key issues impacting health policy and administration, such as lack of access, scarce resources and soaring prices,” she said. “When I moved back to Kentucky, luckily, I met a woman, while doing her nails no less, who was the compliance officer [at the hospital where I ended up working].”
There, Nguyen built an incident reporting system for the hospital and learned the intricacies of risk management. She recognized that she needed a law degree to implement the types of changes she wanted to make in the system. A friend recommended Georgia State Law, and after touring the campus and seeing the various experiential learning opportunities, she knew it was the right place.
She says that professor Erin Fuse Brown’s Health Care Practicum has been one of her favorite classes. The class demonstrated the meticulous process of negotiations and contract drafting in healthcare services. She also liked professor Paul Lombardo’s Great Cases in Bioethics class because of the rigorous discussions about life, death and consent to medical care.
“I would not have access to the caliber of faculty anywhere else,” said Nguyen. “Without their guidance, I would not have secured such prestigious opportunities such as the Georgia Academy of Healthcare Attorneys Fellowship, the Seton Hall Compliance Certificate Program Scholarship and the American Association of University Women Selected Professions Fellowship. The faculty works hard to give us as many opportunities to succeed.”
Nguyen is finishing her final semester of law school and the health law certificate. She is the 3L co-president of the Student Health Law Association. When she’s not in class, she loves going to Zumba class and singing (loudly) in her car while driving through the city.
After graduation, she will be working at Scrudder, Bass, Quillian, Horlock, Taylor & Lazarus LLP as an associate in medical malpractice and commercial litigation.
“As immigrants, my family hoped to survive when we arrived,” said Nguyen. “Day-by-day, we realized we were doing more than surviving. We adapted, grew and learned that change can come by taking just one more step.”