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Medical Director of Penn Family Care Dr. Giang Nguyen

Photo: Sophia Lee

The new Executive Director of Student Health Service Giang Nguyen cares about the health of students campus-wide, even for those who have no experience with SHS other than through a poster in a dorm hallway.

“I’m interested in the health of our students, but it’s not just the health of the students who walk into the doors of our office at 3535 Market Street. It is the health of students who never even think about walking into our student health clinic, but still could benefit from our outreach,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen was appointed to the position following the passing of previous SHS director Evelyn Wiener last spring. He will officially start on April 1, 2015.

While Nguyen’s new position will involve the oversight of all of SHS’ operations, he stated that he’s interested in working with and hearing the needs of students on campus.

“For many people, this is the first time you’re able to engage with health care without your parents there and this is a great opportunity for you to learn how to make the most out of interacting with the health care system,” Nguyen said, talking about SHS almost as a training wheels version for the United States health care system which he said “is incredibly complex and is hard to navigate, even if you have perfect English and you have a degree from an Ivy League university.”

Nguyen praised SHS, saying it “has a great national reputation among the Ivy League schools.” He added, “We have really shown ourselves as leaders in the college health arena, so I am going to be entering a very strong department.”

When asked about what he plans to do in his new position, Nguyen said that although he sees SHS as a model of college healthcare, change and evaluation are still on his radar.

“One of the things that I intend to do during the early part of my time as executive director is to do a needs assessment. This will allow me to understand better what the health needs are of our students, what the strengths are of our programs at Student Health and areas where we could use improvement,” he said.

Nguyen came to the United States from Vietnam at a young age and draws on his personal experiences later in life working with immigrant communities. He created the Penn Asian Health Initiatives in 2004 as part of the Perelman School of Medicine — a program that gave out 3,000 vaccines to underinsured Asian-Americans in Philadelphia.

“I have worked with a lot of community groups for the last decade, working with them to improve the health of largely immigrant communities, so that experience in terms of working with stakeholders in a real substantive way is something that I intend to apply as exec director.”

He attended Johns Hopkins, where he originally studied engineering, but changed his major to public health and went on to medical school afterwards, earning both a medical degree and a Masters of Public Health. He did his fellowship, faculty development and primary care research at Penn and has since stayed as a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. He feels that his varied roles in and around public health care and family medicine, along with working with immigrant communities, will be beneficial in his position as executive director.

He previously served as the Medical Director of Penn Family Care. “Family medicine is very focused on keeping people healthy, developing strong relationships between providers and patients,” he said. ”[Family medicine] really works well in conjunction with public health, my other area of interest, because public health is very focused on preventing disease and keeping people healthy and maximizing wellness.”

“What was truly exciting to me about the opportunity to come to the Penn Student Health Service is the fact that I’m able to use all of those skills within a single position.”

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