Striking a Balance
With three children under six, a husband who’s a radiologist and a busy faculty practice as a primary care provider in the LSU Healthcare Network, Dr. Le Nguyen could be a model and mentor for balancing priorities.
“Everybody has such different responsibilities and roles in life, but it’s important to maintain that work-life balance,” she says. “You work hard, but you have to take time for yourself, for your family.”
To that end, she tries to leave her work at work. Weekends at her house are for family. She and her husband plan date nights and vacations. She says she also has an amazing support system in her husband and her parents (at home) and her medical assistants (at work) that help keep her grounded on a daily basis.
Nguyen advocates a similar arrangement for her patients. “Work-life balance can affect your emotional health, which can in turn affect your physical health,” she says. “It’s important to be happy and to do what you love.”
Managing lifestyle stress is just one component in her principal focus as a physician: prevention. It’s important to her that her patients not wait for a problem to get worse before they do something about it. With proper screenings and blood tests, both the patient and the physician can have the answers and intervene early on.
Every day Nguyen sees people with conditions like pre-diabetes and elevated cholesterol and is gratified by the changes she can help patients make with just a supportive conversation and some manageable adjustments to diet and exercise. Her psychology minor from the University of New Orleans comes in handy too, as she goes beyond medicine to provide counseling and emotional support. “It’s so satisfying to see a patient get back on track without medication,” she says. “It’s a very rewarding job.”
Anyone can benefit from Dr. Nguyen’s big three tips for prevention: exercise at least five days a week; eat healthy and avoid fast food at all costs; and get a good night’s sleep.
Her goal is always a happier healthier patient, but, she is, of course, there for those who are ill. As she says, “It’s always been my personality to be a little bit thorough … methodic,” she says. “With sicker patients, while it is time consuming and difficult, I enjoy the challenge of making someone well again.”
That task is made easier by the multispecialty practice she is part of at LSU. While she practices as a primary care provider, she can quickly refer more specialized problems to cardiology, pulmonology, nephrology and the like, all in the same building. She says it’s a unique set-up to have everything all under one roof and patients are pleased with the “one-stop-shopping” effect.
She and her fellow practice members also work to inspire medical students and the internal medicine residents they teach, where — as director of the primary care track — she is constantly reading and learning as she works. “I think that that makes me a better doctor,” she says. “And helps me keep a balance, too … the variety between teaching and practicing clinical medicine makes the job so much more enjoyable.”
In reflecting on how far she has come to get where she is today, Nguyen has the highest praise for her mother, “Without a doubt the most selfless person I know.” While her father was out trawling, her mother worked shucking oysters in Cut Off, La., and spent the rest of her time giving Nguyen and her seven older siblings everything they needed to get a good education.
It didn’t hurt that Nguyen always loved math and science, and, at age 11, used to page through her sister’s pharmacy school textbooks. The more shocking the diagnosis and accompanying photo, the more she loved it. Now, her brothers and sisters are accountants, engineers, lawyers and pharmacists, but she is the only doctor.
“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “I feel very fortunate to have a job where people have so much trust and faith in my decisions. Having a job that is so fulfilling makes me want to continue doing this for a long time.”
Primary Care Provider, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
Primary Care Track Director, LSU Internal Medicine Residency Program
Undergraduate: University of New Orleans
Medical School: LSU School of Medicine, New Orleans
Residency: Internal Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans
Board Certification: Internal Medicine
LSU Healthcare Network
Section of Comprehensive Medicine
3700 St. Charles Ave.,
New Orleans, LA 70115