From operating room to center stage
New to the UT Physicians team, Phuong Nguyen, MD, director of craniofacial surgery and assistant professor at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, is no stranger to the spotlight. During the day he’s meeting with patients and in surgery; at night he’s the lead singer and guitarist to indie rock band, Help The Doctor.
Of Nguyen’s two loves, music and medicine, music came first. Growing up, choir was his first introduction to the art, but it was his love of ‘90s grunge that kick started his music career. “I picked up a guitar after watching Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins,” said Nguyen.
Drawing on inspiration from the wonderfully angsty grunge bands of the nineties, Nguyen’s first garage band was formed at just 15 years old. By age 17, their first record was released.
However, it wasn’t until Los Angeles and his plastic surgery training that he would meet the men that would come together to form Help The Doctor.
During his residency at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Nguyen and three other surgeons in training (Dr. Jason Roostaeian, Dr. Robert Kang, and Dr. Solomon Poyourow) bonded together over their shared love of rock music. Even with their hectic schedules and long hours, the group still found time to practice. “If it’s a labor of love, it’s pretty easy to do,” said Nguyen. “Similarly, I would say I now have one of the best jobs in the world where you get to work with kids and you have a skillset that can help them. It’s also a labor of love. It doesn’t feel like work.”
Their debut night as an official band was at the renowned Troubadour club in West Hollywood. Tickets were sold out, impressive and unusual for a new group’s first gig. Things escalated from that night. Soon, Help The Doctor was selling out multiple venues and produced an album titled “Angeles.”
All proceeds from their shows go to charity, specifically reconstructive surgery missions, like the one Nguyen takes every year to Vietnam.
Being a first-generation Vietnamese American, Nguyen’s annual mission trips to Vietnam hold a special place in his heart. In 2004, he visited as a medical student assisting with reconstructive surgeries. “That was my first time back to Vietnam, first time back to my country. It was a lot of mixed emotions,” said Nguyen.
With music as a passion and medicine as a career, Nguyen uses both to give back to the people in the two countries that he calls home.