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Vietnamese refugee opens Jacksonville podiatry practice

Jacksonville's newest doctor is Linh Nguyen who opened Family Foot and Ankle Care in Paper Mill Village Shopping Center this spring. Nguyen offers treatments for a range of foot, ankle and leg problems at her new office and she performs surgeries at St. Joseph Medical Center and Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

"The best part of my day is when I can instantly help people," she said. "They come here in pain and they leave feeling so much better. I see everything from sports injuries to heel pain, warts and ingrown toenails."

Since her last name is common in her native Vietnam but hard to pronounce here, she prefers to be called Dr. Linh, pronounced "lean."

Nguyen, 35, was just 2 when her family escaped Vietnam by boat in 1978. She said her father planned the escape and took off with 50 people crammed into the boat.

"My father said he had zero freedom in Vietnam and he knew he couldn't raise his family the way he wanted," she said.

They were running low on food and water when a Japanese ship rescued them and took them to a refugee camp inMalaysia.

The Nguyen family stayed there for six months until a family in Glen Burnie sponsored them to come to America.

They eventually moved to Columbia and the family grew to include Linh and three brothers.

She attended Oakland Mills High School and then majored in biology at University of Maryland, College Park. She graduated in 2004 from Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine.

"I worked in a nursing home during high school and college and I found I liked helping people one-on-one," she said. "It wasn't until I was in college that I even knew there was such a thing as a podiatrist."

After one year of podiatric residency training and two years of podiatric surgical residency training, she returned to Maryland and joined two podiatry practices for the next four years.

But, Nguyen, who now lives in Forest Hill with her husband, Mark Koehler and 7-month-old son, Vincent, said she has always wanted her own practice. She became familiar with Jacksonville as she drove from Harford County to Columbia to visit her family and thought the location was perfect for her solo venture.

She rented space in Paper Mill Village formerly occupied by Full Moon Tanning and saw her first patient in March.

"I think I was one of her first patients," said Jeff Reckseit of Phoenix. "It's hard to do my own toenails and I'd been thinking about getting them trimmed but I wasn't sure she'd see me for just that," he said. "But she was very pleasant and very easy to talk with. I enjoy going there."

Nguyen see patients of all ages, including 4-year-old Vanessa Calvillo of Upperco. Her mother, Lorena, brought her in after she complained of knee pain. Nguyen diagnosed her with flat feet and fitted her with orthotics.

"Dr. Linh was very patient, very kind. My daughter's knees feel better already," Calvillo said.

Nguyen is already making her mark on the local community. Last month, she gave a talk at the Jacksonville Senior Center about the effect of diabetes on feet. On July 6, she'll talk to the seniors about general foot problems and ways to improve balance to prevent falls.

Family Foot and Ankle Care is located at 3334 Paper Mill Road, Jacksonville. For details, call 410-666-3668 or go to http://www.footreliever.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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