It was a mere week before Operation Frequent Wind, the final evacuation from Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1975. Someone looked at her and said, “We are evacuating. Would you like to go?”
“I love to study, and I wanted to learn in America,” said Tuong-Vi Ho, PhD (’06), a clinical professor in the College of Nursing at the TWU Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center. “It seemed like a great opportunity, so I said yes.”
Finding herself in the middle of history then, Ho works with the Vietnamese community in Houston and Vietnam today.
“It’s the best position for both worlds. Life has come full circle for me to come from Vietnam, make the U.S. my country now, but still be able to go back to contribute to where I came from,” said Ho. “I feel fulfilled. But it wouldn’t be possible without Texas Woman’s University and our mission to have a voice and presence on a global scale.”
Building relationships abroad
Ho contributes to TWU’s Center for Global Nursing (CGN). What started as a cultural immersion course became the first trip to Vietnam for the CGN in 2012.
Ho and other faculty have led four more cultural immersion trips since 2012 promoting rapid growth in the relationship between Vietnam’s nurses and TWU students. That relationship has led to numerous conferences and workshops at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City attended by Vietnamese nurses across the country.
The goal of these trips is to embrace the multicultural population in Houston, which boasts the second largest Vietnamese population in America. By experiencing Vietnam, TWU students learn more about their patients’ culture. With that understanding, a nurse can build better rapport with patients, encourage them to communicate openly, and then provide better care as a result.
“It is a chance for our students to explore a culture that they may only see in a book or on the internet,” said Ho. “Our students can develop friendships with nurses in Vietnam and really live out the experience.”
That is already taking place as students were paired with nurses in Vietnam for specialties last trip, receiving hands-on experience. Ho hopes to see the interaction expand in the future.
Influencing the culture in America
In addition to her work with the Center for Global Nursing in Vietnam, Ho works to educate the Vietnamese community in America.
She has teamed with TWU alumnus Tri Pham, PhD (’10), to provide a monthly TV show called “Health and Life” to educate the nearly 40,000 Vietnamese living in Houston about health issues. While the show has aired on Apple Broadcasting TV (55.4) since 2018, Ho and Pham—both fluent in Vietnamese—are transitioning the show to a radio format to reach listeners worldwide, including Vietnam.
They will focus on educating the Vietnamese culture on benefits of preventative healthcare.
“Health and Life” is not the first project on which Ho and Pham teamed together. In 2007, they were founding officers for the Vietnamese-American Nurses’ Association (VANA), an organization that unites Vietnamese-American nurses and promotes the health of Vietnamese communities around the nation through outreach, research, education and disease prevention. VANA also sponsors Vietnamese nurses to travel to America for more education.
“We are a team who just happens to be at the front of the line right now,” said Ho. “But we have to grow and make room for new leaders to emerge.”
For now, though, Ho is a leader in the Vietnamese community in the U.S. and abroad, as well as at Texas Woman’s University.
“I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I would have never thought I could do something like this,” said Ho. “Life is full of surprises. It really does come full circle.”
By Joshua Flanagan
Marketing & Communication