Dr. Anh Linh Hoang, a young Catholic pediatrician, was ready to sign the contract that would make her part of an established and thriving medical practice.

At the last moment she thought to mention to officials there that her faith did not allow her to prescribe contraception. Hoang hadn’t thought it would be an issue.

It was an issue. In fact, it was a deal breaker.

Hoang, with support from her family, turned that loss into a truly Catholic medical practice: Northern Pediatrics on NE 122nd Avenue.

Her hard-working parents purchased the building that houses her practice, Northern Pediatrics, and Hoang now works with both her office and her conscience filled with light.

“I’m incredibly blessed,” she said. “The kind of medicine I feel called to practice seems only viable if you’re your own boss.”

Northern Pediatric’s clean white walls are decorated with cheery stickers of animals, trees and leaves in a happy landscape, and a child-sized orange and yellow table set has pride of place in the middle of the waiting room. Hoang’s office has a crucifix over the door.

She fills her days seeing patients who are often turned away from other practices; 90% pay with Medicaid.

“It’s not financially prudent,” Hoang admitted, but it is, again, in line with her faith.

Many medical practices cap the number of Medicaid-funded patients, usually to about 10%, because Medicaid and Medicare payments are low, sometimes lower than the cost of care.

“It’s humbling,” Hoang said. “The families sometimes have such scarce resources. You see their struggles. It’s so Catholic.”

Hoang’s patients sometimes come with interpreters, including Afghan and Ukrainian. It’s most often the Spanish-speaking families who live in multi-generational homes and remind her of her own grandparents, who were always there for her as her parents worked long hours.

Hoang, still a parishioner at Our Lady of La Vang, attended 12 years of Sunday school there, which means not only religious education but also Vietnamese lessons.

She earned her medical degree at Creighton University, a Jesuit school, in Omaha, Nebraska, and is grateful for the lasting friendships she found there, fellow physicians she has been able to turn to in order to discuss concerns.

“They tell me to keep doing what I’m doing,” she said. “And I’m growing in my comfort level as a woman of God.”

After finishing her residency in 2017 she worked for a large group practice before deciding to go solo.

She often references her family, who has supported her generously and faithfully. Her brother, a businessman with a degree in public health, is business administrator for the practice and mans the front desk.

“Having someone I could trust has been invaluable,” Hoang said. “He wears so many hats.”

Thuy Hoang admitted that he didn’t think he would enjoy pediatrics as much as he does. “It’s fun seeing the kids’ personalities,” he said.

As a pediatrician, Hoang said she doesn’t face many issues that challenge her faith. Other than contraception, vaccines come to mind. She won’t vaccinate her patients using vaccines grown in fetal stem cells. Fortunately, in all but three diseases (rubella, chickenpox and Hepatitis A) there are alternatives, vaccines produced without that tripwire.

“I am a loving witness in my own practice,” said Hoang. “I recognize that everything I have to give is from the Lord.”

Her Catholic faith, she says, is simply part of who she is, the same as being a woman or being of Vietnamese descent.

When a patient asks for contraception, she explains that the church has forbidden it, and that abstinence is the right choice for teens. “I take the time to explain,” she said. “It’s not just a blanket ‘no.’”

She knows that if her patients are determined to get contraception that there are other avenues they will take.

“I have to do what allows me to sleep at night,” Hoang said. “My faith informs the decisions I make, but I still practice evidence-based medicine.”

— Kristen Hannum