From Hip Hop to Medical School

From Hip Hop to Medical School

Quang Huynh chooses path to return to his inner city as a physician

Image of Quang Huynh
Quang Huynh during commencement ceremonies.  He begins a residency program this summer in New York and plans eventually to return to Camden to practice medicine. 
Photo: Courtesy of Quang Huynh

‘Writing taught the power of expression, economy and imagery, and dance taught me the power of originality, confidence and grace, not just in movement, but in personal relationships as well.’
–  Quang Huynh

At first glance, the two passions that drive Quang Huynh seem unrelated, but both his love of hip hop dance and his desire to become a doctor can be traced back to his childhood in Camden.

Growing up, Huynh learned to deal with his childhood experiences weaving hip hop themes into creative writing. It was his way of reconciling the conflict between the private school education he earned through scholarships, and the life he witnessed on the city streets.

“Writing taught the power of expression, economy and imagery, and dance taught me the power of originality, confidence and grace, not just in movement, but in personal relationships as well,” Huynh explains.

In college he pursued his passion for music, launching the Capital Funk dance company as an undergraduate at George Washington University.  But he never lost sight of his other dream to become a doctor who could help people in inner cities like his hometown.

His family physician, Bao Nguyen, who practices in the heart of Camden in an office surrounded by barred and abandoned houses, has inspired his desire to pursue a career in medicine. After taking some time after college to focus on the dance company, teach dance in afterschool programs to disadvantaged children and travel internationally, Huynh pursued his dream of becoming a physician.

Huynh graduated this month from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and will soon begin his residency at New York Presbyterian HospitalColumbia University Medical Center.    

“I see myself returning to my beloved hometown to give back to it what I've learned as an urban family physician, like Dr. Nguyen, who understands he is a part of the society he is caring for, rather than an authority that hovers above it,” Huynh said. “If I can learn to be a fraction of this exemplary man, or a fraction of what my proudest supporters expect of me, then my life will have been worth the effort 10 times over.”

Family physicians, he believes, have the potential to become part of the community, to serve as leaders and teachers. Huynh hopes his unique perspective of the cultures in which he has lived gives him an advantage in caring for urban patients.“I once thought that luck or karma guided my life, and though I am not one to argue with providence, it is now clear that it was mostly due to the faith of teachers, family, and friends who believed in me that I could go on to do remarkable things,” Huynh says.  

Sonia Garcia Laumbach, assistant dean of education at RWJMS, is convinced Huynh is on the right career path for what he hopes to accomplish.

“As a student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Quang has been an involved learner and in true form, he has helped other medical students as a peer mentor,” said Laumbach, also a family medicine physician. “He is kind and passionate, and his capacity to overcome hardships has taught Quang true empathy. His ability to connect easily with others will serve him well as a family physician after graduation.”

Huynh believes a residency in an urban environment will have served as an asset for when he begins to practice in the Camden area.

“The inner city is still inside me and it can come out when I return home,” he explained. “I can use that ability to assimilate with patients and earn their trust. New York City is the place to begin to put that skill into practice.”