President's Column

Honoring Our Past and Shaping Our Future

by Dr. Nhung Brandenburg  

President’s Column – July 2017

Thank you so much for honoring me with the opportunity to serve as your president.

For nearly 113 years, the Georgia Optometric Association has provided doctors of optometry with the information and resources they need to provide the best care possible for their patients.

And, for the last 20 years I have been fortunate to work alongside my dedicated colleagues as we have faced many challenges to our profession.

As I shared during my speech at the summer conference, we -- all of the members of the GOA -- arrived here traveling different paths.

I have met many members at GOA events over the years, but you may not have heard me share my background.

My story began in South Vietnam where I was born during the Vietnam War.

My dad was a pilot in the South Vietnamese Air Force during this time of great unrest in the region.

Through a combination of circumstances and good luck, he was able to fly our family out of Saigon on one of the last C-130 airplanes to leave Vietnam before the North Vietnamese government seized control of the country.

We were some of the 130,000 refugees that fled by sea and air.

This trip was a harrowing ordeal that is forever etched in my memory. I can still hear the sounds of the day with children being upset and their parents trying to keep everyone calm, even though they themselves were scared and nervous. One of the most memorable moments was at the start of our journey. I will always remember how our family was squeezed into the cockpit of the plane. We almost didn't make it out because the fuel level was low and there were several hundred people in the back of the plane. We found out later that the plane we escaped on was the property of the United States government on loan to South Vietnam. After the war it was retired and is now on exhibit at the Air Force Museum in Arkansas.

When we finally arrived in the United States, my family was sponsored by a church in Indiana. The families of that church helped us to learn English and taught us how to adapt to life in a foreign country. Their generosity to complete strangers had a profound impact on me. I credit my commitment to giving back to others through community service directly to the generosity of those families in Indiana.

Later on, we settled in Florida and I had a happy childhood. When I was in high school, I completed an internship at Orlando Regional Medical Center and was inspired to choose a career in the medical field. Thanks to the influence of my husband's optometrist, Dr. Joe Yager, who was a Fellow and was about to be the president of the American Academy of Optometry, I looked at the profession of optometry.

After earning my undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida, I graduated from the Southern College of Optometry, became a Fellow myself and became involved professionally and legislatively. I first began volunteering with the GOA right after graduating from SCO. I have been attending GOA conferences ever since!

Over the years, I have enjoyed seeing the real impact the GOA has on the lives of its members and the community.

Now you have heard more about my story. During my term as president I look forward to hearing your stories - and about the paths you traveled that led you to optometry.