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Family medicine was her first choice

Gilda Ngo, MD, UC Irvine Family Medicine Resident
Photo by Hien Nghiem, MD
Gilda Ngo, MD, talks about what drew her to family medicine.

Dr. Gilda Ngo's work in a women's shelter helped her plot her career course

Although Dr. Gilda Ngo grew up in Orange County within walking distance of UC Irvine Medical School, she was an unlikely candidate to become a resident here.

Ngo lived with her mother and sister in housing projects and was on government assistance. Her mother was a survivor of domestic violence. 

But it was precisely that background, coupled with a year she spent working in a women’s shelter, which helped draw Ngo into medicine and led her to choose family medicine as a specialty.

Working in the shelter, she says, “Was the best experience of my life.” The job helped her understand the socioeconomic factors that affect health. That knowledge, combined with her desire to help people and her love of science, made the path to medical school an easy choice.

“It gave me a 360-degree view on how socioeconomic factors affect health and society in general. I realized how a physician’s position makes them such a critical resource,” she says. 

“Women who are survivors of domestic violence are isolated. Their batterers are isolating. This is true for a lot of marginalized people. They don’t see anyone or have resources. So, the one person they see if they have a broken bone or a skinned knee is a doctor. We, as physicians, can help them by picking up on clues.”

Ngo attended the University of Vermont medical school, where she continued her work with victims of domestic violence. She is currently a third-year family medicine resident at UC Irvine School of Medicine.

“I chose family medicine because we are in a better position to help people when we understand their families. As a family medicine specialist, we have a broad skill set and can treat whole families. I like the variety.”

Ngo chose UC Irvine for her family medicine residency based on its expertise in caring for the underserved. 

“I got a great education at medical school but I really feel like I learned how to take care of my patients holistically with the families in mind and their resources (or lack of it) at UC Irvine,” she says, crediting her work at the Family Health Center in Santa Ana. 

“Dr. Dow, Dr. Kilgore, Dr. Florio, and Dr. Vega are great role models,” she says. “All of our faculty has the focus on the underserved and is able to guide us through it. I feel very lucky.”

Her mentors speak highly of her, too.

“Gilda Ngo is an absolute blessing to her patients and our community,” says Chuck Vega, MD, the Residency Program Director in Family Medicine at UC Irvine.

“She has an innate ability to form connections with people, and she is intensely committed to making a difference in the lives of her patients. We are very fortunate to have residents like Gilda in Santa Ana, and we cannot wait to see what she does next.  Her potential is limitless,” he says.

After graduation, Ngo will work for three years at the Northeastern Community Clinics of Los Angeles to fulfill the obligation of the National Health Service Corps Scholarship, which paid for medical school.

After that, it’s too soon to tell where she will practice, whether in the United States, or abroad. Wherever she decides to go, her commitment to working with the underserved as a family medicine physician is unwavering.