Growing up in Ho Chi Minh
City, Saigon, John Tran knew
he wanted to be a doctor from
an early age. He saw people
around him suffering from par­
asites, leprosy and other dis­
eases, and he wanted to help.
But overall, John had a typical
childhood, competing with stu­
dents from other cities in ping­
pong, and taking advanced clas­
ses in science and math at
school, up until the eleventh
grade of high school.
That was 1981, and that year
John was refused admission to
his senior year of high school
because his parents did not sup­
port the Communist govern­
ment. He and his father began
planning an escape from Viet­
Later that year, John and his
father attempted to make their
escape. They left Saigon in a
boat which was to make one
more stop to pick up more Viet­
namese wanting to leave the
country. But when they
stopped, the Communists were
waiting for them. John and the
others were captured and taken
to jail, being beaten with fists
and gun butts along the way.
For 10 months, John was held
in prison. The prisoners were
fed only rice and water, and
were forced to do hard labor.
John was tortured and interro­
gated as the Communists tried
to find who led the escape. But
John "told them only lies." Af­
ter 10 months, they gave up
trying to get anything out of
John, and he was released on
Back in Saigon, John had to
make weekly visits to his proba­
tion officer. This made plan­
ning the next escape much more
difficult. But in 1983, John's
sister, already a resident of the
USA, was able to arrange
John's emmigration papers, and
purchase a plane ticket to the
United States
So on January 6, 1983, John left
Vietnam. He arrived in Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma, on January 12,
1983. Eventually, John's entire im­
mediate family was able to come to
the US.
After arriving in Oklahoma, John
attended Oklahoma City Junior
College, mowing lawns and work­
ing in the school lab to support
himself. He transferred to the Uni­
versity of Oklahoma after one and
a half years. 1988 was a big year
for John, as he graduated from OU
and became a US citizen the same
year. After going to pharmacy
school for two years, John finally
made it here, to do what he had
always wanted to do. Become a
I asked John if there was anything
else that should be included in this
story. "Yes," he said. "I just want
to tell anyone out there that wants
to be a doctor not to give up. They
can make it." Congratulations,
John. We're glad you made it.
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