We often write about local doctors who lose their medical licenses or have them placed on probation by state officials due to various misdeeds.
The story of Dr. Li Quang Nguyen is different.
The Medical Board of California reinstated the Westminster physician’s medical license effective Dec. 30 because Dr. Li Quang Nguyen is a changed man.
Born and raised in Saigon, Nguyen came to the United States when he was 14 and North Vietnam had taken over South Vietnam. He spoke no English when he arrived, but he learned quickly, entered Cal Poly Pomona at age 16 and graduated with degrees in biology and chemistry when he was 19.
Nguyen was a top student at UCLA’s medical school, interned in general surgery and did his residency in ear, nose and throat medicine (otolaryngology). He got his medical license in 1988 an was board certified in otolaryngology and plastic surgery in 1999.
He established his practice in Westminster, where he was well known in the community, worked six days a week and had patients and privileges at many local hospitals.
Nguyen did get blips on his record: a Medical Board citation in 2003 for poor record keeping and a public reprimand three years later for striking a branch of a patient's carotid artery.
But his real undoing came in 2006, when the happily married man discovered his wife was having affairs. This led to a self-described "messy" divorce and the doctor filling his loneliness first with parties and then with hard drugs at parties.
He started a relationship with another woman who kicked him out in July 2007, when Nguyen got a hotel room. Police responding to a welfare check call later went to the hotel room, found cocaine and drug paraphernalia and arrested Nguyen.
Fortunately, about six months earlier, Nguyen had stopped practicing medicine voluntarily because he knew he was not in "good enough condition." He went on to plead no contest to a felony and misdemeanor charge against him and was ordered to enter a drug diversion program. Nguyen's medical certificate was revoked in November 2008, and nearly a year later the criminal charges against him were dismissed upon successful completion of the substance abuse program.
Through therapy, drug testing and 12-step programs, Nguyen embraced sobriety as seriously as he had his medical studies. All of his drug tests have come back negative ever since, and a psychologist and a medical doctor who specialize in substance abuse told Medical Board investigators that they have found no evidence of the doctor having abused drugs again. Respected doctors also testified to the board about Nguyen’s solid character.
In the years since losing his license, Nguyen could not afford to begin proceedings aimed at reinstatement. So, he created a medical device company, Automatic Subthermal Injection System (ASIS) Corp. in Westminster, which has a patent for a device used for administering injections. Nguyen has also written or co-authored papers in medical journals.
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Once he did have the means to get his license back, Nguyen and his lawyers started the process that led to the Medical Board’s recent action, which does come with some conditions to protect patient safety.
Nguyen must: participate in continuing medical education since he has essentially been out of practice since January 2007; undergo clinical diagnostic evaluations and file reports; abstain from using alcohol and controlled substances; submit to drug tests and substance abuse worksite monitoring; and attend substance abuse support group meetings.
He also cannot supervise physician assistants nor work solo as a medical practitioner until the board makes another determination in the future.
Failure to abide by the conditions could lead to a cease order for his medical license.