Commencement 2008: The future of biomedicine

Lyen Huang


Steve Gladfelter/VAS

MD candidate Lyen Huang

Nobody can accuse Lyen Huang of being single-minded.

The future surgery resident took Stanford's School of Medicine at its word when the it claimed to embrace a flexible medical school schedule. Huang took a year off to get a master's degree in public health through the University of Cape Town along with his fiancee. Another year he managed the student-run Pacific Free Clinic in East San Jose. He also wedged travel into breaks between degrees and volunteer work, including trips to India and Peru.

Huang, who graduates with his MD on June 14, said it's part of his grand plan to do it all. "I like the idea of the doctor with a black bag who can see all kinds of different patients," he said.

For someone with an interest in public health and primary care, surgery isn't an obvious choice for a residency. However, Huang said surgery was the perfect fit for someone who grew up working on bikes. "I got a thrill out of walking out of the operating room feeling like I'd fixed something," he said.

At the same time, the master's degree in public health gives Huang insight into strategies for helping underserved populations. "There are a lot of public health issues having to do with surgery," he said. Access to surgery and surgical outcomes vary by region and ethnicity, for example, and many Third World countries are in need to training for trauma providers. He hopes to become involved in some of these research efforts.

And when the travel, surgery, and public health become stifling, Huang said he plans to keep his primary care skills sharp by continuing to volunteer at the Pacific Free Clinic. A guy wouldn't want to get too focused.

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