"I wanted to go to college since I was young, but the reality that we couldn’t afford it didn’t hit until high school."
Tiffany, Yale University
Hometown: Beaverton, OR
My family and I are refugees from Vietnam. We immigrated to the United States in 1995 under the Humanitarian Operation — a United Nations-led program that allowed former political prisoners and their families to leave Vietnam after the war. During the Vietnam War, my father fought alongside the U.S. and was captured for over seven years. I grew up learning of the harrowing cruelty he endured and the tragic losses my family faced from the Fall of Saigon.
Escaping the Communist regime and arriving to the land of opportunities meant freedom, but it also meant confronting financial and social obstacles in a new country. As I grew up, my parents worked tirelessly to support our family and were minimally involved in my education due to their limited English and lack of higher education. I wanted to go to college since I was young, but the reality that we couldn’t afford it didn’t hit until high school. When it came time to apply, I had immense anxiety about the future, until I discovered QuestBridge.
Learning that QuestBridge connects low-income students to top universities with a full scholarship provided me hope; becoming a Finalist for it instilled a confidence to apply to colleges, such as Yale, where I never imagined my admission would be possible. Yet, I was accepted and matriculated with a full ride.
In college during my freshman year, I found my passion for genetics as I conducted breast cancer research at the Yale School of Medicine. I eventually discovered and chose a career in genetic counseling — an exciting meld of science, education, psychosocial counseling, patient advocacy, and research. While it is not a well-known profession, I sought opportunities to gain exposure through internships and shadowing. I also created an independent study with the support of a clinical psychology professor, who connected me to a unique opportunity counseling patients with severe psychiatric disabilities.
I desired more experience with patients, so I moved to Boston after graduation to work with a translational genomics research team called Genomes2People at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. I currently help lead a study on risk education for Alzheimer’s disease and work on a couple clinical trials that examine uses of genomic technologies in newborns and adults.
Now two years after college, I am excited to say I will be attending Stanford’s MS program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling. Furthermore, I am extremely fortunate to have continued financial support from the Gates Millennium Scholarship — another source of educational funding I earned in high school during my senior year. This scholarship paid for indirect fees not covered by financial aid at Yale and now will pay fully for my graduate education at Stanford.
“Thankful” is an understatement, but “determined” precisely describes my sentiments toward the various opportunities I’ve had throughout my life. I am determined to make a difference in the lives of patients I serve, to advocate for the disadvantaged in all communities I am part of, and to empower the marginalized just as it was done for me.
Written by Tiffany Nguyen, Yale University '16, as a part of QuestBridge Storytelling.
Tiffany is currently a Senior Research Assistant at the Genomes2People Research Program of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In Fall 2018, she will begin graduate school at Stanford’s MS program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling.