by MICHELLE TREMBLAY | photos by Alex Williams Photography

Making a Difference

volunteer_ngonguyen3Lien Ngo Nguyen – in her own words – may seem “passive and timid,” but she is quite the opposite. Lien is an exceptionally strong individual with a fierce determination and passion to change lives. “People are usually surprised to see how well-organized, perceptive, and astute in problem-solving I can be,” shared Lien. “I do speak my mind courteously, when appropriate, since I do respect other people’s opinions.”

Originally born in Vietnam, Lien is one of nine children in her family. In addition to caring for the children, Lien’s mother worked to supplement her father’s small income as a civil worker. “My mother, who never had any medical training, always helped the neighbors with all their medical issues,” recalled Lien. “Especially infants and children.” Inspired by her mother’s selflessness, Lien, at age 16 and in the midst of the Vietnam War, started volunteering with local Vietnamese medical teams made up of high school, medical, and pharmacy students to assist displaced or injured war refugees. “It opened my eyes that I could make a difference in people’s lives after treating infected wounds and seeing them healed,” said Lien.

Name: Phuong-Lien Ngo Nguyen
Community: 4S Ranch
Volunteer Affiliation: ConnectMed International and VA-NGO
Profession: Nursing/Education
Family: Married for 42 years with two sons
Hobbies & Interests: Traveling, gardening, cooking, and volunteering

volunteer_ngonguyen2Soon after, Lien was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from the United States Air Force to attend nursing college in the states. “Though my original goal was to become a surgeon, I am very happy that I am a nurse and then an educator,” shared Lien.

Today, Lien is not only a nurse by profession as well an instructor at Cal State San Marcos, but she is a passionate philanthropist as well. Since 2005, Lien has been involved in ConnectMed International (CMI), a nonprofit organization with a mission to “improve access to surgical care in underserved communities, and support sustainable healthcare through education, partnerships, and telemedicine.” Lien explained, “I have been a volunteer for CMI with most of its function and medical mission trips. I also love the fact that education is the main focus of CMI; thus, my nursing students from Cal State San Marcos have benefited from this by joining the medical mission trips.” Lien is currently the Vietnamese Nursing Program Coordinator for CMI, mainly with the Cultural & Healthcare Exchange Program and Scholarships.

volunteer_ngonguyen4Lien also lends much of her time to the Vietnamese-American Non-Governmental Organization Network (VA-NGO), a group focused on strengthening the humanitarian and development work in Vietnam. Lien is currently the treasurer for VA-NGO and has been a member since its conception. “My main role with this organization, aside from being the treasurer, is to help coordinate activities pertaining to health,” described Lien.

When asked about her biggest accomplishments in volunteering, Lien replied, “Helping others and making differences in their lives, especially the underserved and less privileged.”

Lien lives in 4S Ranch with her husband of 42 years and her two children. She loves the area for its well-planned community, providing many parks and family-oriented activities.

Name: ConnectMed International
Mission: Improve access to surgical care in underserved communities, and support sustainable healthcare through education, partnerships, and telemedicine.
Contact: Rita Albert at

Name: VA-NGO
Mission: To strengthen the humanitarian and development work in Vietnam by delivering technical and capacity building workshops and leading effective collaborations.
Contact: Cathy Lam at /