Like many migrant parents, mine saw education as the key to breaking the poverty cycle. Arriving in Australia as Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon, they couldn’t help me with my English, but they could support me in maths. They saw it as the pathway to a better life.
A true understanding of maths came as I got older, from a tutor who taught me to find the joy and balance it with being methodical and meticulous. It’s a life lesson that’s served me well.
Life looks very different to what I imagined when I was 15. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – we’re pressured to commit to a career so early in life. I wanted to go to uni, so I chose maths and science subjects to keep my options open.
I stumbled into neurosurgery by accident. My maths background prepared me well for the complex and mentally demanding role of a neurosurgeon. Skills like problem-solving, sequential reasoning and pattern recognition make me a better surgeon. The perfection required in maths is a great training ground for brain, spine and nerve surgery.
Neurosurgery is dominated by men. I still get mistaken for a nurse, pharmacist or admin staff, but the world is changing. More women are graduating from medicine now than 20 years ago.
Success for me isn’t fame or fortune. It’s making the lifelong commitment to learning required by medicine and getting out of bed at 5am excited for what every day brings. It might be filled with reading, cooking, interior design, dancing or creative writing. Managing my time requires the precision and accuracy of a surgeon.
My plans? Staying a kind person and a compassionate neurosurgeon who changes lives. And getting a pilot’s licence… if I can find the time.