Elizabeth Nguyen: Bridging the Cultural Gap Between Health Care Professionals and Patients

Elizabeth Nguyen Headshot

Elizabeth Nguyen, Class of 2021, was raised in a non-native English-speaking family. The challenges relating to health care that her family and other similar families faced - language, literacy, and cultural barriers - inspired Nguyen to pursue pharmacy.

Today as a pharmacy student, her goal is to bridge the cultural gap between health care professionals and patients.

Nguyen was drawn to the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy because of its involvement with the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) and World Health Organization.

“I could see myself becoming involved in opportunities to further my awareness for international health care, becoming involved in global health promotions, collaborating with international partners of the University, and improve the quality of care of all patients both domestically and internationally,” Nguyen said.

The connection to international health care was important to her because of her long-term goals.

“I hope to one day create or be a part of a collaborative practice consulting firm for refugees or new immigrants to the United States,” Nguyen said. “I’d like to be involved in large-scale projects for international populations on patient and medication safety, public health literacy, and health care literacy for young children.”

Nguyen says she values the opportunities the college provides to explore other aspects of pharmacy that she hadn’t been exposed to before. The college’s respect for diversity was a big attraction for her as well.

Nguyen firmly believes that in order to adequately serve patients, pharmacists must first understand their world.

With a strong desire to learn about global healthcare and to enhance her global perspective, Nguyen attended the IPSF World Congress 2018 in Mendoza, Argentina.

She attended educational and scientific symposiums about pharmacology, Chagas disease, pharmacy advocacy, and international advancement of pharmacy. She networked with the international speakers to learn more about how pharmacy education and practice differ across the world.

She also attended the General Assembly, which brings together the many committee meetings of the different regions and countries present at the congress. At the meetings, she discussed and voted on international legislature for IPSF, countries that will be accepted into IPSF, as well as which country will host the next World Congress in 2020.

Attending the world congress also afforded her the opportunity to develop global leadership in change and implement a public health campaign in the city of Mendoza.

“For our public health campaign, I exercised my Spanish knowledge to help implement patient education on Chagas disease, a common Latin American disease from native insects, as well as provide blood pressure and glucose monitoring in patients,” Nguyen said. “I also participated in a patient counseling competition in which I placed third, representing APhA-ASP and the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy.”

In addition to the pharmacy aspects of attending the congress, Nguyen was able to enjoy the city of Mendoza and many cultural experiences. She attended an Argentine Cultural Night and an International Night, where all the countries have a table and bring traditional food or drinks from their home country to share. She cherished all of her experiences at the World Congress in Mendoza.

“It was amazing, and an absolute blast,” Nguyen said.  “Not only did I get to explore one of the countries on my bucket list, I also got to experience various aspects of Argentine pharmacy practice and meet pharmacy students from over 50 countries. I immersed myself into the Argentine culture, its food, drinks, dances, traditions, and wineries.”

After her experience at the IPSF World Congress, she has become more involved in IPSF, by becoming its liaison for the Minnesota Pharmacy Student Alliance and a Local Exchange Officer for the international pharmacy Student Exchange Program.

Nguyen believes the knowledge she gained from attending the IPSF World Congress will help her in her future profession when she is connecting with others of various backgrounds.

“Keeping in mind cultural sensitivity is an essential element to increase one’s awareness and understanding of a patient’s perspective, and my experiences at the IPSF World Congress will help me do this,” said Nguyen.

Her trip to Mendoza was a valuable experience for her in many ways.

“World Congress was a fulfilling experience, in both professional and interpersonal relationships, and really solidified why I chose to be in pharmacy,” Nguyen said.