Tuan T. Lam, MD dreamed of becoming an astronomer in high school, as he has always been fascinated by our infinite universe. Throughout his higher education, however, he turned his thoughts from the stars towards a profession that also focused heavily on life and existence - medicine. His medical interests in college and medical school shifted from immunology to heart transplants to cardiothoracic surgery, where he has remained ever since.
Dr. Lam spent the first ten years of his life in Vietnam with his family. Shortly after the Vietnam War, he escaped the country on a fishing boat with his siblings and grandmother, and managed to reach the United States after a perilous overseas journey, leaving their parents behind. Seven years later, young Tuan graduated from high school as valedictorian and was accepted at Yale College.
During his first year at Yale, young Dr. Lam often worried about his family situation. His older sister was away at college, and two younger siblings were living with his weary father, who arrived in the United States after his children and their grandmother had immigrated. He remembers spending countless nights hoping things would improve, but soon adapted to his new life at Yale College and was able to concentrate on his studies. When Dr. Lam entered into his junior year at Yale, he was admitted to the combined BS/MS program and devoted one and a half years to investigating a Lyme disease vaccine. During that same year, he was also accepted to the early Flex/Med program at John's Hopkins and found out that his mother had finally arrived in America. He flew home from Yale immediately following graduation to see her again for the first time since he was ten years old, and later described the reunion as the best graduation gift he could have received.
Now that his family was together again, Dr. Lam felt much more at ease and could focus on his career in medicine. Due to a growing interest in surgery and immunology, he applied for and received a one-year Howard Hughes Fellowship to do xenotransplantation research after his second year at Johns Hopkins. Overall, his research year was productive and rewarding, as it solidified his intellectual interest in thoracic organ transplantation and opened his eyes to the exciting field of cardiothoracic surgery. After Hopkins, he spent two years at the Medical College of Virginia general surgery residency program, but decided to return home to the west coast to care for his ailing grandmother. He would eventually spend three years at Stanford University doing additional xenotransplantation research and participating in community activities.
Outside of the lab, Dr. Lam became the co-organizer of a college conference hosted at Stanford that was attended by over two hundred Vietnamese American high school students and their parents. He also served as chairman of a scholarship program for exceptional high school students who demonstrated a combination of high academic achievement and strong involvement in the Vietnamese American community. Dr. Lam also participated in the California AIDSRIDE, where he spent one week with hundreds of other cyclists riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Today, he still enjoys cycling and rides in his free time as much as he can.