Dr. Nga “Swan” Nguyen Goodhal ’79 Reflects on the Love and Support of the Sisters of Mercy

“They Took Me Under Their Wings”

Dr. Nga “Swan” Nguyen Goodhal ’79 Reflects on the Love and Support of the Sisters of Mercy

“They Took Me Under Their Wings”

After escaping from Saigon on a naval ship in 1975 to avoid persecution by the Viet Cong, Nga “Swan” Nguyen Goodahl ’79 never imagined that she would find a new family with the Sisters of Mercy in Maine. Yet, a providential voyage brought her to the Philippines, then Guam, then Pennsylvania, and finally to Maine where Saint Joseph’s College President Bernard Currier collaborated with Governor James Longley to host Vietnamese refugees on campus.

Sr. Mary George O’Toole ’51, PhD (Hon. ’90), RSM, Dr. Swan Nguyen Goodahl ’79, Nguyet Nguyen (Swan’s mother), Sr. Joyce Mahany, PhD (Hon. ’09), RSM. Photo: Patricia Erikson

Swan (then 17-years-old), her mother, and her six siblings lived in dorms and ate in the dining hall for a few weeks. When they found sponsors, her family moved to Winterport but Swan enrolled at Saint Joseph’s with a scholarship from the Sisters of Mercy. She developed a love for biology, earned an undergraduate degree, and then went on to complete her osteopathic medical degree at Kansas City University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

This is the remarkable story of one young woman who faced political and personal hardships, persevered, studied diligently, and became an emergency room doctor.

Dr. Swan Nguyen Goodahl ’79 as a student at Saint Joseph’s College. Courtesy of SJC Archives

Dr. Swan Nguyen Goodahl lives in south Texas. She has one son, Alexander. As an emergency room doctor, she rotates between three hospitals within McAllen Medical Center. She enjoys practicing osteopathy because of its holistic belief that “the body has to be treated as a unit.”