I left South Korea with my mother, Songia Hoang, and my father, Choon Gill Hoang, on November 19, 1970. My father wanted more training as a neurosurgeon. I was one year old.
We came by air from Seoul and landed in San Francisco. We stopped in Japan for a layover, where my father saw and bought his first camera with some of the $300 he brought with him. This impulse purchase is the start of the recording of the Hoang family’s journey and life in this country. My father became the designated family photographer, as did my brothers and I for our respective families.
We finally settled in Piqua, Ohio, forty miles north of Dayton. It was a life of acclimation, assimilation, learning, and a lot of work. We rarely went on vacations.
My father found that in order to practice neurosurgery in the U.S., he would have to repeat his entire residency. He decided to change fields, and took a shorter residency in OB/GYN. After he completed his residency, he was offered a professorship in his new field at a Korean university. However, the compensation would not allow him to support his immediate and extended family as was expected of the first-born son. He decided to stay in the U.S. where he could provide for both. He established a solo OB/GYN practice. He was not disappointed. This pivot was life changing. He delivered countless babies and saved the lives of many women. He was respected for the quality of care he provided, and for his curiosity which led him to learn about other specialties. This helped him provide better care for his patients.
My mother was instrumental in getting my father’s new specialty and practice started. She was more proficient in English and sent letters for him to all Ohio hospitals when he completed his residency. They received four replies and chose Piqua based on its proximity to Dayton and its demand for OB/GYN care. She was the back office for his practice, handling billing and scheduling as long as he practiced. While her youngest child was in high school, my mother got her Masters in Fine Arts and became an active member of the local arts council as well as an art judge. She was also a professor of art at Edison State Community College for fourteen years. Both my parents are now living their golden years in Carlsbad, California.
My younger brothers were born four and five years after we arrived in the U.S. Both of my brothers became doctors (neuro-radiology and interventional radiology). I got my Masters in Public Administration, worked at the United Nations, and raised two grown kids. I am currently the lead Serving Coordinator at Highland Park United Methodist Church. I match members with community service opportunities that best fit their skills and desires. I helped found the Orchid Giving Circle, an organization that supports and funds the under-served Asian communities in North Texas.
My parents are my inspiration. Their success was built on mutual trust between husband and wife, less possible in the patriarchal Korean society. They strongly believed that together they could make a two-person practice thrive. They are survivors and incredibly resourceful people. To us kids, my parents always displayed a sense of adventure and “go for it” mentality. It’s hard not to make things happen because of the can-do attitude that they impressed on us. They instilled values of honor, integrity, service and a diligent work ethic. And to always do a little more than what’s expected. The most important lesson they taught me, though, was to live my life so that I would not envy anyone else. That’s the way they lived.
Arang C., Dallas