They're students, clinicians, scientists and researchers. They're also artists, influencers, patients, scholars and advocates. They hail from all over the globe and come to Stanford Medicine carrying big ideas and dreams. With passions that stretch beyond the lab, classroom and clinic, they share their "why" as they pursue science and medicine.
Anthony Pho, PhD, approaches his work the same way he does people -- and life in general. "I approach patient interactions with an open heart and a joyful curiosity for another human being," he said. "The real joy of primary care is that you are able to get to know your patient over a period of time and they welcome you into their lives."
As a nurse practitioner at Stanford's LGBTQ+ Health Program, this openness and desire to connect on a human level is vital, especially for a population that often faces stigma and discrimination. "I think the most important thing in LGBTQ+ health is to be as nonjudgmental and open minded as possible. Quite frankly, it is our failure as clinicians when patients are afraid to ask us questions."
It might be hard to imagine that Pho -- the son of a marine biologist and a doctor -- wasn't always in medicine. He worked in software development for more than a decade before deciding, at the age of 34, that he wanted to be a nurse. "I was inspired by a number of nurses in my life, but it was my parents who reminded me that, 'there is honor in a career in service to others,'" Pho recalls. He enrolled in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, earning dual master's degrees in nursing and in public health. "I met my tribe: people I just really clicked with in terms of world views and community health. That got me really excited."
Research meets nursing
After graduating, Pho worked as a nurse practitioner at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, where he met a physician faculty member, and together they developed and taught a health disparities curriculum for medical residents. The seminar series, which was the first of its kind at the medical college, focused on LGBTQ+ health and emphasized the social determinants of health. That's when Pho realized his passion for education and asking research questions. "After several years of teaching the seminar I thought, 'I should go back to school so I can get the training to answer some of these questions myself,'" Pho said. "And that's why I went back to do a PhD." In 2020, he completed his doctorate program at Columbia University, where he studied whether factors like online health information and health literacy influence human papillomavirus vaccination uptake among transgender and gender diverse people.
Now at Stanford Medicine, Pho provides primary care for LQBTQ+ patients and conducts research as a postdoctoral scholar with The PRIDE Study, a large-scale, longitudinal look at the physical, mental and social health of adult LGBTQ+ people.
"Stanford has enabled me to work in a place that not only supports LGBTQ+ health research and the best of clinical care, but also to be a part of a wonderful team of clinicians who are as passionate as I am about bringing that care to real people," Pho said. "It's unique to have an opportunity to work side by side with people who share your values, as well as share your passions for advocacy for your community."
Watch the rest of the We Are Stanford Med series here.
Photo by Luceo