Chung Lip wasn’t planning on getting another degree. But when he was shadowing doctors in different fields, he felt led to take his education in a different direction. He wanted a career that allowed him to work hands-on with patients while spending meaningful time with them. That meant finding a program that shared his mission to help others.

“That’s when I decided I wanted to expand my training more into a clinical setting,” Chung said. “So I have more flexibility to serve the community, both in the public health in a bigger picture sense, but also as a frontline worker as a nurse. That’s when I decided to apply for a nursing program.”

Chung says it was a last-minute scramble to apply to a nursing school. Since he wasn’t planning on attending school this fall, he ended up applying for school a month before the deadline. But the deadline wasn’t the only challenge. 

Because this would be Chung’s third degree, he wanted an accelerated program. But not all schools allow international students to apply to accelerated programs. With multiple degrees already–biology and psychology from Augsburg University in Minneapolis and a Master of Public Health from Columbia University–he was a perfect fit for Mount Aloysius College’s second-degree nursing program. 

“Before I came here, I had to make a very tough choice: Johns Hopkins for a Master of Science in Nursing, or Mount Aloysius College for the accelerated BSN program,” Chung said. But he knew Johns Hopkins would be expensive. “The Mount has a good history of nursing and has a good reputation for the quality of the nursing students that they produce, so I decided to come here.”

Chung says that it’s nice to go from New York City to a small school in a small town because it reminds him, in a way, of his host family’s hometown. 

He was born in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and lost his mother to illness when he was 12. After aging out of the orphanage, Chung was on his own, learning English through free programs at various organizations. Eventually, he met his host parents, who were volunteering in Cambodia and who worked hard to sponsor him to come to America. With their help, Chung moved to their small town in Minnesota. 

Chung wants to make the most out of the opportunity his host family has given him. “I tried to learn as much as I could. I came here and went to high school here for a year, then I went to college in Minnesota–Augsburg. Then after I graduated I went to Columbia, and now I’m here. I’m trying to make the best of it, rather than just attend one school and finish.”

His studies at Augsburg and Columbia really prepared him for the coronavirus pandemic, Chung says. His capstone focused on delivering health messaging without causing panic, using Ebola and the Zika Virus as examples. “When there’s a pandemic or epidemic happening, the media delivers information in ways that can scare people. I majored in psychology at Augsburg, and I learned throughout my journey that sometimes fear is a good thing–sometimes people really listen and respond to fear–but other times, that’s not a good idea, since people respond to fear differently. It was fascinating to see what I was studying playing out in the world around me.”

Chung says that when he graduates, he wants to use his public health knowledge and his skills as a nurse to work in geriatric care. He’s particularly interested in chronic liver disease and working in health education. 

“Family medicine has become less and less prevalent and I really prioritize the elderly who need the same quality of care if not more,” he said. “I want to do more work in the geriatric population and kind of emphasize the public health aspect. More preventative medicine, rather than long term. More maintaining and continuing care, especially with the older population.”

Anyone considering going into the medical field should consider shadowing a professional in that field, Chung says. He believes that shadowing someone is the only way to really know what life in that job is going to be like, and you might realize you love something you hadn’t thought of before.

“For me, when I had time to shadow, I even took some time to work in a nursing home as a CNA for an internship. I found nursing and the work that they do every day–even though they run around all day long because their work is so busy–I found it really satisfying, really rewarding. That’s what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.”

Chung has taken his experiences in Cambodia and compiled them into a memoir that he says is full of “essential knowledge components for public health professionals who are involved with global health projects all around the world, healthcare workers who are working with diverse populations every day, and general population who want to gain knowledge about the lives outside of the developed countries.” The project honors his late mother, who sacrificed everything so her children could have the life she never did. You can buy HERS on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.