Before Dr. Christine Thuy Huong Vu became a professor and ER nurse, she traveled the world singing pop songs.
“I was always on my own path, not following anyone else,” Christine says.
She was born and raised in Orange, California after her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in the 1970s.
Christine grew up singing Vietnamese songs with her family, and music quickly became a meaningful part of Christine’s life.
When she was in the fourth grade, her father suffered a brain aneurysm, and it was up to her mother to take care of the family. Her father did recover, but he was not able to work.
Christine was the first person in her family to pursue higher education.
“I set the bar high for myself because I saw my mom taking care of us,” Christine says. “She wanted to set us up for success, so I needed to set myself up for success.”
She began pursuing her undergraduate degree in criminology and law and society with a minor in business. She was also working at a law firm. At first, Christine thought about becoming a police officer, but she joked, “I’m only five feet tall so I quickly learned that wasn’t the path for me.”
While she was still finishing college, Christine and her father sang a duet at a wedding together. An executive from a Vietnamese music label was also at this wedding and asked Christine if she wanted to sing for the label with another young Vietnamese woman.
Christine was signed to this record label not long after and began traveling internationally to perform in locations ranging from the U.S. to Europe and Australia. She performed for several years, enjoying the pop-star lifestyle and seeing the world.
Homesickness began to kick in for Christine, and she wanted to be closer to her loved ones again. A friend of hers suggested that Christine pursue nursing, as it would offer her a flexible schedule and stable career while still leaving time to sing.
Christine was accepted into the California State University, Fullerton nursing program, and she pursued her nursing degree while still working as a successful singer.
While touring, Christine was constantly studying, and her academic nature was often looked down upon by other singers around her. This made her want to hide this part of herself.
“I would hide in a closet with my nursing books and study before I got on stage because I didn’t want anyone to see that there was this other part of me that needed something else,” she says.
Christine earned her Master’s of Nursing despite the struggles she faced.
“Saving lives — there is nothing that can replace that, when you can care for someone who is incapable of caring for themselves and advocating for them and their families,” Christine says.
A few years into working as a nurse, she noticed older nurses transferring to different hospitals and newer nurses struggling due to a lack of mentorship. So, she decided to become the mentor that newer nurses needed.
She pursued both a nurse practitioner degree and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree after finding a dual-program at Rush University in Chicago.
Nursing practitioners are mentors, educators, researchers and administrators to other nurses in the field. A doctor of nursing combines clinical practice with scholarly research. Christine holds both of these titles.
While a registered nurse primarily provides hands-on care in different medical settings, a doctor of nursing can work in higher education like Christine, as well as in management in hospitals.
In 2010, Christine became a professor of nursing at her alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, and is now a tenured professor there.
As a professor, Christine finds joy in seeing her students grow. The most rewarding part for her is “being able to lead these future nurses with genuine kindness.”
“Watching the students that I teach go from the novice learning phase to watching them graduate, grow confidence and then get married and have kids reminds me that they’re human also,” Christine says. “If I at one point in their life helped them to feel better about themselves, that’s one of my favorite parts of being a professor.”
Christine truly does not let the grass grow under her feet, as she still works as an ER nurse in addition to teaching.
“She can be both” is a message that means the world to Christine, as she has struggled with sharing the different parts of herself in her multiple careers.
Just as Christine felt the need to hide her studies from her music community, she also was hesitant to share her past as a singer with her students and colleagues.
“There was a time when I started teaching and I didn’t want anyone to know I was a singer,” Christine says. “I didn’t want anyone to know I was a pop star because they might not take me as seriously. Or do I look too young? Would this prevent me from having certain opportunities because I had this background?”
This is what motivated Christine to start her own women’s wellness platform in 2018 called BAMF, which stands for Beautiful, Authentic, (Self) Made and Fierce.
She chose these words specifically because she feels the women in her life are all of those things.
Christine started this platform with the hope of bringing her friends in different circles together to meet and celebrate their successes. She wanted to empower the women in her life to share what makes them unique.
With BAMF, she hosted women-centered events, including photoshoots and video shoots. The women would pick one word that best described them and pose for a photo and video shoot.
One of her friends, for example, was a dietician and yoga instructor. She chose the word “self-made” and participated in a photoshoot. Christine then gifted the photos to her friend to use for her business.
Christine has realized that it is healthier to embrace her many facets rather than hide them. Being a talented singer does not make her any less of a nurse or professor.
Though BAMF has slowed down a bit over the years, Christine says all of the women she did photoshoots for are all still friends.
In the years to come, Christine hopes to start her own wellness facility in Orange County, California, that would incorporate meditation, nutrition and fitness.
Christine had to slow down with her singing, but music is still an important part of her life and she tries to sing when she has the time.
Christine also recently became a mother and is focused on spending time with her family.
Listen to some of Christine’s music here: