Growing up in Southern California, Linda Nguyen, MD, considered several career choices: marine biologist; astronaut; doctor. Luckily for the thousands of patients she has treated over her career, she chose the latter.
This year, she was selected to receive the Stanford Medicine Master Clinician Award, which honors a physician in the Department of Medicine for their commitment to patient care. The award also recognizes consistent peer support for viewing the master clinician as a physician who possesses exceptional skill, knowledge, skill, diligence, stubbornness, and expertise.
Nguyen was nominated by two colleagues: Leila Neshatian, MDclinical associate professor in gastroenterology and hepatology and nephrologist Glenn Chertow, MD, Norman S. Coplon/Satellite Healthcare Professor of Medicine. In her appointment letter, Chertow commented that “despite being extremely busy and in high demand, Dr. Nguyen has always found a way to see patients who need her advice. She never fails to give them the time and attention that patients with motility disorders need.
Upon learning that she had been chosen as Master Clinician for 2021, Nguyen said she was “deeply moved and grateful to receive such a distinguished honor. I felt like I was receiving a lifetime achievement award, this who confirmed to me that choosing the difficult path leads to priceless rewards.
Curiosity inspired a career
When Nguyen was in high school, she told her father that she wanted to be a doctor. He asked her why. “It’s a hard life,” she remembers telling him. He advised her to pursue an “easier career”. “But easy isn’t for me,” she said. “I have always been drawn to challenges. More importantly, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. The results speak for themselves.
Nguyen completed a combined Bachelor of Science and Medicine program at UC-Riverside and UCLA, completing her training in 1999. She did her residency and gastroenterology training at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She is currently a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Vice Chief of Clinical Operations for the Division of Gastroenterology. She is also the Chief of Clinic of the Digestive Health Center.
Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, never aspired to be an academic doctor. “Throughout my studies and my training, she says, I never met professors who looked like me, so I didn’t grow up seeing myself in academia. My plan was to go back to Southern California, open a gastroenterology practice, and be a very good clinician. But during her fellowship years, she began to dabble in the field of gastroparesis, a chronic condition in which the stomach inexplicably cannot empty properly. She was fascinated by the mysteries of the digestive system.
In 2008, Stanford Medicine recruited her to lead the neurogastroenterology program, a position she held until resigning in 2021 as she transitioned to her current roles. “Neurogastroenterology is the arena where the gut and the brain intersect,” she commented. “This is a very difficult area, as currently available tests are often insufficient to diagnose the underlying cause of patients’ symptoms. This often leads to delays in diagnoses.
She considers the development of the program one of the highlights of her career. “At the beginning, I was the director of only one person: me. Today, we have a multidisciplinary team of 10 full-time faculty, a gastrointestinal psychologist, three advanced practice providers, dietitians and social workers, who provide state-of-the-art clinical care and conduct cutting-edge research that spans the full spectrum of neurogastroenterological disorders. .”
And last year, his division established an Advanced Fellowship in Neurogastroenterology – the first in the country. This is a joint fellowship in collaboration with Stanford’s Autonomic Neurology Group, to train the next generation of neurogastroenterologists.