SGM Law Group is proud to congratulate Quyen Truong on her winning essay. She is a first-year law student at University of Connecticut School of Law. Be sure to read the full essay below. Congratulations, Quyen!
What field of law are you interested in and how will you help others with your earned law degree?
I am interested in healthcare law and I intend to increase healthcare access to immigrant and minority communities with my earned law degree. Since college, I have focused on learning about how to address our minority communities’ healthcare access needs. As a Vietnamese refugee, I grew up experiencing the needs of a marginalized, impoverished Asian Pacific American (APA) community. As a future lawyer, I intend to use my personal and professional experiences to address healthcare access issues so that all immigrants can succeed.
When our family emigrated from Vietnam to the U.S.A, we faced many healthcare-related challenges. Our health was affected by issues ranging from food insecurity, to learning English, to finding stable employment, to coping with the trauma of the Vietnam War. Dinner was often served with stories about my father’s seven years of imprisonment in Vietnamese re-education camps where he was tortured, starved, and worked to the bone because he fought alongside Americans. Recent studies found that children born to adults affected by trauma are biologically predisposed to mental health vulnerabilities. From a young age, I knew that my parents suffered from PTSD and trauma. When I started grappling with depression as an adult, I wasn’t surprised to learn that APAs are least likely to use mental health services. Stigma presents one barrier for APAs, but recent APA immigrants face other barriers. These include lack of culturally competent healthcare and paucity of interpretation services. As an elementary school student, I was privy to my parents’ medical records and was often asked to translate documents or interpret during doctor’s visits. Scarcity of professional interpretation services prevents immigrants from fully disclosing and discussing health issues. As a result, many immigrants do not get the services we need until it is too late. Luck enabled my parents and me to survive. But many immigrants and minorities are not so lucky. Without proper access to healthcare, people suffer needlessly and cannot succeed.
My career focuses on understanding how to address immigrant and minority healthcare access needs. In Connecticut, I work at the North Central Regional Mental Health Board (NCRMHB) to improve mental health services. My work with NCRMHB gave me a platform to focus on minority healthcare concerns. I am currently partnering with various Asian organizations, the Connecticut Commission on Opportunities and Equity (CEO), state agencies, and Black Churches across the state on a variety of healthcare access initiatives. Via a Connecticut Asian Problem Gambling Initiative, I facilitate discussions about mental health and addiction with APA communities across the state. With the CEO, I worked on a year-long “Coverage to Care” initiative to ensure that APAs are both enrolled in and accessing healthcare. With state agencies and local organizations, I am developing a coalition of healthcare professionals who want to ensure health equity for all communities. With Black Churches across the state, we are organizing monthly fellowships to ensure that church leaders have the information and tools to educate their congregations about healthcare, and to advocate for their communities in the legislature.
My tumultuous childhood inspired me to advocate on behalf of immigrants and minorities who lack resources to succeed. To best contribute to our community, I will run for public office to represent APAs across Connecticut. I want to be the first APA woman State Senator or State Representative. As a lawyer and as a legislator, I will focus on addressing healthcare access, especially in relation to mental health and healthcare reform. In these capacities, I can leverage past provisions from the Affordable Care Act to promote better healthcare access for all minorities. Focusing on the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards, I will represent immigrants and minorities who struggle to get the translation and interpretation services they need to better access healthcare. For those who have suffered from long-term trauma, depression, or have permanently disabling health issues, I want to make sure that they are never denied healthcare again due to a pre-existing condition. With my healthcare work experience, lawyering skills, and interest in public service, I will work with other legislators, health insurers, and healthcare providers to mediate issues and decrease the cost of care. As a future APA lawyer, I want to ensure that all immigrant and minority groups have access to affordable, culturally competent healthcare.