Profile: Marilyn Nguyen

Marilyn Nguyen
DDS Class of 2019

Hometown: San Jose, California

Career Plans: Work in a community clinic in San Francisco, Oakland or Los Angeles for three years to fulfill her National Health Service Corps scholarship obligations and then explore other opportunities.

I love the students, faculty and staff here. I think what makes this school great is the way we pull each other through the trenches and help each other out. I don’t think a three year program would be possible without that support. It’s such a wonderful aspect of the Dugoni School family.

Growing up in a low-income family, Marilyn Nguyen knew she wanted to be in a profession that would allow her to help the underserved community. Her desire to become a teacher was deeply rooted in her upbringing and her understanding of how it feels to come from that community. However, as she was completing her coursework at University of California, Los Angeles to become an AP chemistry science teacher, a chance encounter with a woman during some volunteer work changed the course of her career.

"I was volunteering in the community, giving health screenings and connecting uninsured and linguistically isolated people to health insurance," recalls Marilyn. "This woman came up to me with various systemic health issues, but the one thing that bothered her the most was the fact that she needed a root canal. She was begging me for a dentist, but none of the free clinics in the area offered dental care. It was the most heartbreaking thing for me to be unable to help her. I wanted to take an active part in changing someone's life, so I shifted my focus toward dentistry."

Now in her second year at the Dugoni School, Marilyn loves her time in the clinic interacting with patients. She's the type of person who is motivated to help others more than herself so giving individuals the dental care they need has been rewarding for her.

"To be able to actively take part in helping someone and change their life for the better has been great," says Marilyn. "I finally have the opportunity to apply everything I've learned so far. It made me realize just how much I've learned in the past year."

In addition to the busy course load, Marilyn decided to challenge herself more by becoming the Class of 2019 President. Throughout her life, she's always been involved in clubs and organizations because it makes her studies more meaningful. She finds that when she's put in a position that challenges her, she grows the most.

"I know that in the future I'll be working with all types of people, whether I'm working in a community clinic or whether I'm heading my own practice," says Marilyn. "I think it's useful to gain those skills of working with and managing people."

Another reason Marilyn decided to take on this role was because she loves working with her fellow students. A three-year program is difficult and Marilyn finds that she can really rely on her classmates for help. I think what makes this school great is the way we pull each other through the trenches and help each other out. I don't think a three year program would be possible without that support. It's such a wonderful aspect of the Dugoni School family." Learning to understand the concerns of her individual classmates and advocating for the entire class can be tough to balance, but Marilyn feels like she's really grown into the role since she first took it on.

As for her career after graduation, Marilyn plans to fulfill the commitment that is part of her National Health Service Corps scholarship, which requires her to provide health care to communities in need upon graduation. She plans to work in a community clinic in San Francisco, Oakland or Los Angeles, and is looking forward to helping those who are less fortunate.

"Working in a community clinic is what I always wanted to do," says Marilyn. "I think I've gotten really lucky with my life and feel very fortunate that I'm going to be doing what I love."