Long Thao, M.D., ’88, Family Medicine
Dr. Thao is fulfilling the SIU mission in a unique way: serving the underserved population of Southeast Asian refugees (Hmong, Lao, Mien, and Vietnamese) as a solo family medicine physician in Merced, Calif. A native of Laos, Dr. Thao and his family moved to Illinois when he was 16. Life in Illinois was difficult and lonely, but he worked hard learning English on his own. He was the first Hmong to graduate from a U.S. medical school. He stayed in Merced following a residency there to dedicate his career to helping the Hmong population. For years, he was the only physician treating the Hmong population in Merced. In 2006, about 170,000 ethnic Hmong lived in the United States. Most Hmong are animists, believing that animals, plants, rocks and natural phenomena have souls. Some Hmong are unfamiliar with western medicine. Dr. Thao is committed to helping bridge the medical, cultural, and language barrier.
He is married to Seng Thao, and together they have ministered to Hmong people of Thailand. For his work, he has been featured in an article in “Just GarciaHill” an virtual community for minorities in sciences, and twice in The Merced Sun-Star. “The education I received at SIU definitely prepared me to be a family physician,” Dr. Thao says.