Busy Dr. Vu tells of life from Vietnam to Dot. Ave
“After eight years, I could not trust the Communists any more, so I fled the country by boat.”
Huy Linh Vu, MD, recalled floating in the open ocean while his wife and son remained in Vietnam during a matter-of-fact recounting of his life from the jungles of Vietnam to his practice at 1100 Washington St., a new professional building in Lower Mills that last month became the site of Vu’s new office.
A primary care physician who has worked here for 15 years, Vu, 65, had graduated from Saigon Medical School in 1975 two weeks before the fall of Saigon and had found work in a malaria eradication program. But after eight years, he set his escape plans and spent seven days in a small boat before a US Navy ship spotted him and contacted a German commercial boat to rescue him.
In 1984, he arrived in the United States as a political refugee and completed his clinical training at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, all the while attempting to keep in touch with his family.
“They tried to escape, too, but they failed,” Vu said. “They tried up to twenty times. But they failed and twice they were captured by police and put in jail.”
In those days, reaching them by phone was expensive and the mail was monitored by the government, which would sometimes hold onto a letter for up to a year, he said. Vu said he would attempt to route mail through a sister-in-law in Switzerland. Finally, after seven years and pressure by the US government at a time when relations with Vietnam had improved, his wife and 10-year-old son joined him in New York.
In 1994, he was approached by a Caritas Carney Hospital recruiter, who persuaded him to come to Dorchester. “When I was in my country, in junior high, high school, I read a lot about Boston: MIT, Harvard,” Vu said, alluding to two of Boston’s many universities. He settled first in West Roxbury, then moved to Jamaica Plain in 2001.
Vu stayed at the Carney until January of this year, when he signed up with the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, where, he says, he was given more flexibility and a better facility on Washington St.
The three-story building his office is housed in sits about two minutes away from the Carney facility and, Dr. Vu noted, provides plenty of room to expand from its current single-doctor status.
“We may afford another doctor, another physician,” said Vu. “We already have more than enough patients, so I need someone to help me take care of my patients, to share patients with me.” He sees about 15 to 20 patients a day, many of them Vietnamese immigrants, and is aided by three staffers, two of whom are bilingual.
Asked if he has thought about returning to Vietnam, Vu said, “It’s still a Communist country and the situation is worse and worse, so I have no plan to come back.”
His 97-year-old mother remains in Vietnam with his siblings, he said, and he has a brother who also fled Vietnam and came to the US through Hong Kong. Vu supports them financially and communicates by telephone and e-mail. “But I haven’t come back for over thirty years now,” he said.
“I’m a very proud American,” he said. “I try to be a good doctor, I try to learn to be a good doctor. I try my best.”