After overcoming many obstacles early on in life, he said he has found a way to achieve more success than he ever thought was possible.
Vu was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1969, and he came to America as a refugee in 1975 with his family after the Vietnam War. He said he remembers a lot about living in the war-torn country, but as a child it was just part of his everyday life.
“You go to school, you come home, you be with your family,” Vu said. “But intertwined into all that you knew that there was a war going on. As a young child I would hear people talking about the war, and I would hear artillery in the city and surroundings, but it was just part of life.”
After spending time in various refugee camps throughout the Pacific and in Arkansas, Vu and his family were able to relocate to Minnesota after being sponsored by a church in St. Paul. His family started their new life in Golden Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis, where Vu attended middle and high school.
“I didn’t know English at all, so it was tough trying to communicate,” Vu said. “Just like any other young kid, you get teased if you’re different. This was no exception. It was tough, but I was determined to try to fit in and learn the language and customs and work hard.”
Vu graduated from high school in 1987 and then began studying at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He went on to finish both an undergraduate and graduate degree in microbiology from the University.
It wasn’t until he was nearly completed with his graduate program that Vu’s interest in dentistry developed. With the encouragement of a friend in the microbiology graduate program, Vu enrolled in the dentistry program at Marquette University.
“I didn’t know much about dentistry, but I liked science and working with my hands,” he said. “My friend encouraged me to look into dentistry because it was what I was describing that I wanted to do. So I applied and decided to give it a year to see if I liked it or not, and it turned out to be a really fortunate thing for me.”
When he took this next step in his education, Vu was already married and had his first child. The four years of dental school proved to be challenging, as he would spend his weekends with his family in Oshkosh and his weekdays studying in his studio apartment in Milwaukee.
However, his hard work and the endless support from his wife paid off, and he found work at a dental office in Neenah shortly after graduation. Two years later, Vu opened his own office in Oshkosh, where he is currently practicing dentistry.
“I worked very hard, and nothing was just given to me,” Vu said. “But it all paid off, and it really worked out well. I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Vu and his wife now have three children, and he said all of his spare time goes toward spending time with them.
“It’s all about the kids now,” Vu said. “I’ve accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish and more so than I ever imagined. So now I want to support them and give them the opportunities and experiences so they can become successful in whatever they want to do.”
Contributed by Danielle Beyer ’12