Seanny Min, Doctor of Nursing Practice '09

Heart of a Healer

Seanny survived a brutal dictatorship. Now she focuses her life on caring for others

USF nursing alumna and faculty member Seanny Min DNP ’09 grew up fearing for her life under the murderous Khmer Rouge, not knowing from day to day whether she'd survive. Dozens of her friends and family members didn't, but Min was fortunate.

In her late teens, she escaped from Cambodia’s killing fields. But the suffering she saw there stuck with her, and ended up propelling her into nursing — a profession, she says, that has allowed her to care for the vulnerable in their moment of greatest need.

“Twenty-seven members of my family were killed,” says Min, of life under the Khmer Rouge. “I made it out because a smuggler helped my husband and I escape across the border to Thailand, where we lived in a refugee camp for three years.”

USF has meant the world to me. It gave me a great education and self-esteem and empowered me, regardless of my background, race, or religion.

The couple had their first child in the camp before the U.S. took them in. It’s why she “appreciates the American dream so much,” she says.

When she arrived, she spoke almost no English. And despite the odds against her and the fact that few Cambodian women at the time attended college or had careers, she raised two children, earned a college degree, a master's degree, and a doctorate. Today, she's a nursing professor and sought-after student mentor. She still makes time to provide free preventative health classes to worshippers at her Buddhist temple, and regularly returns home to Phnom Penh to hand out hundreds of dollars worth of medical supplies and reading glasses to the poor.

"She's an award-winning nurse and top nursing instructor beloved by her students. That pretty much says it all," says Professor Judith Karshmer, who was dean of School of Nursing and Health Professions when Min won the peer-nominated DAISY Award for outstanding nursing, and the USF School of Nursing Dean's Medal Award for promoting professionalism as a top doctor of nursing practice student.

'Mother duck'

"Through our heads and hearts, we use our hands to heal," Min likes to say.

"Heart" is one of the first words you hear from students and colleagues to describe the popular doctor of nursing practice and master of science in nursing adjunct professor.

“My students call me ‘mother duck,’” Min says.

The nickname came about when her students started calling themselves her "ducklings," as they all walked the hospital-clinic corridors for rotations. "They follow me in single file," Min explains. "When I turn left, they turn left. When I turn right, they turn right." But there's another reason for Min's nickname. She's known for her generosity, devotion, and for a sense of motherly love, according to Soo Young Lee '16, one of many students she's taught, mentored, and helped to find their first jobs.

"We call her 'mother duck' because she cares about us like a true mother. We always strive to do our best because we don't want to let our mother down," says Lee, who's now a clinical nurse at Stanford hospital. "She always had my back and would always help me get through any obstacles in the way."

Connected to her roots

Min, a nurse practitioner at both Stanford and Kaiser in Oakland, stays connected to the Bay Area’s Cambodian community through Oakland’s Cambodia Buddhist Temple, where she teaches preventative health classes about the importance of quitting smoking, eating healthy, and early treatment of hypertension and heart disease.

She’s done similar work over the years at Asian Health Services in Oakland, a nonprofit that provides health and social services for mainly Asian families in the East Bay, regardless of income.

“USF has meant the world to me. It gave me a great education and self-esteem and empowered me, regardless of my background, race, or religion,” Min says. "And I get to teach a new generation of nurses so that they can go anywhere to change and heal the world."