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Two UM physicians are drafting kids' books on health — and wedding vows

Betty Nguyen and Brandon Pham with some of the books they've written. Many of their books feature collaborations with other doctors.
Brandon Pham
Dr. Betty Nguyen and Dr. Brandon Pham show some of the books they've written. Many of their books feature collaborations with other doctors.

Since co-founding "Medical School for Kids," Dr. Betty Nguyen and Dr. Brandon Pham have authored 25 children’s books on medical specialties in hopes of inspiring the next generation of health workers.

After working 12 hours at the hospital, the day is still not over for Dr. Betty Nguyen and Dr. Brandon Pham.

For the past 2½ years, they’ve spent evenings and weekends writing, editing and publishing 25 children’s books on cardiology, dermatology and more.

The 28-year-olds got engaged two years ago, but Nguyen and Pham first met while attending the same high school in California. Then they both went to UCLA, but they didn't start dating until later, when they went separate ways for medical school. That’s when they got the idea for the "Medical School for Kids" series.

“We were just joking about how we wish we had this information at an earlier age,” Nguyen said. “A lot of the stuff we learned in medical school isn't too difficult to grasp, but there's just so much content. And then one day we were like, 'What if we taught this to kids?' "

Now, both are resident physicians at the University of Miami. Nguyen's focus is dermatology and Pham's is ophthalmology.

Pham and Nguyen's first two books were "Opthamology for Kids" and "Dermatology for Kids", which are their respective specialties.
Don Pham
Dr. Betty Nguyen and Dr. Brandon Pham's first two books were "Opthamology for Kids" and "Dermatology for Kids," which are their respective specialties.

They said their passion to improve health literacy was a big motivator behind the series, and they hope that the books empower children and their parents to take ownership over their own health.

“A lot of the patients we see in the hospital don't fully understand what's going on in their bodies, why they might have a certain disease, or what kind of steps they can take to improve their health and overall well being,” Nguyen said. “A lot of that stems from … not having access to educational materials that they're able to understand.”

Their parents are refugees from the Vietnam War and had limited education and English proficiency, so Nguyen and Pham grew up learning a lot from children’s books.

They wish they had a series like "Medical School for Kids" to give them early exposure to the field, they said. When Nguyen and Pham published their first book, "Dermatology for Kids," they described their outlook as “blind faith and optimism.”

“I don’t even think we thought this was going to be successful,” Pham said. “Success for us would have just been having a book out there and being able to share it with our nieces and nephews and our future children."

After the couple received a lot of positive feedback from social media with requests for books on other medical specialties, they started publishing more volumes. Most of them highlight specific medical specialties, but some also introduce readers to the health care profession.

“With every book we're learning and improving. We're very grateful for this platform to continue to learn and grow,” Nguyen said.

While Nguyen and Pham are first-time authors, both have teaching experience. Pham has worked for test prep tutoring company Princeton Review and created videos teaching chemistry and ophthalmology. Nguyen has tutored students since she was in high school.

“It’s just knowing your audience,” Pham said. “Speak at that level and know what’s important and what’s not important.”

They still had to learn how to self-publish and navigate legal agreements, which wasn’t easy. Still, Nguyen said the business has expanded her idea of what’s possible.

“I think one of the biggest things I learned was that you should never put yourself in a box,” Nguyen said. “You could be anything you want to be and you could be everything you want to be.”

The couple plans to get married next year — if they can find time.

“The wedding is second priority,” Nguyen said, as they both laughed. “The books have taken precedence over most of our time.”

Brandon Pham proposed to  Betty Nguyen June 2022 at the Huntington Beach Pier in California.
Don Pham
Pham proposed to Nguyen June 2022 at the Huntington Beach Pier in California.

Copyright 2024 WLRN 91.3 FM

Anita Li