Up Close | Faculty Member at UCSF Fresno Gets Special Mother’s Day Gift

On Match Day this March, when medical school graduates learned where they would be spending the next three to seven years in hands-on clinical training, an early Mother’s Day gift awaited Loren Alving, MD, director of the UCSF Fresno Alzheimer & Memory Center and director of the UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME). 

Dr. Alving’s daughter, Chrissie Alving-Trinh, MD, a Louisiana State University – New Orleans Medical School graduate, matched with the UCSF Fresno Department of Surgery for a five-year general surgery residency. After 11 years away at jobs and schooling, Dr. Alving-Trinh is coming home to Fresno for medical training where her mother, a UCSF professor of Neurology, has taught residents and medical students for over two decades.

“I was so excited,” Dr. Alving said of the moment on March 18, when her daughter opened the envelope containing the news of her matching with UCSF Fresno. “It’s so wonderful that she will be home. I just want to spend time with her. Talk to her.”

Dr. Alving-Trinh is equally thrilled to be coming home. Her parents, Dr. Alving and her father, Dzung Trinh, a geriatrician, live here and her fiancé (Suchith Nareddy, MD) is second-year Internal Medicine resident at UCSF Fresno. “And the surgery program is amazing,” she said. “This was my top choice. I was so excited that I would be coming here. I spent a month doing an away rotation on the vascular surgery service here and absolutely loved it. From the faculty to the residents to the patient population, it was everything I wanted in a program.”

She credits her mother for supporting her choice of surgery. Dr. Alving-Trinh began medical school with thoughts of pursuing Pediatrics or Pediatric Neurology, and she did not change course until the very end of her third year of medical school. “I think I called my mom on the first day of the surgery rotation and said, ‘I love surgery, but I can never do this. It’s too late to change now.’”

Dr. Alving encouraged her daughter to follow her passion. “What I tell my children is you have to go with your gut.”

She had found her own career path the same way, by following her heart. Dr. Alving knew she wanted to be a physician. She is a fourth-generation physician. Daughters, Chrissie Alving-Trinh, MD, and Ali Alving-Trinh, MD, (Ali matched in March at UC San Diego as an integrated plastic surgery resident) will be fifth-generation physicians. She had plenty of medicine role models, but Dr. Alving also wanted to be a mother – and for this she had no guide, her mother having died when Dr. Alving was five years old.

“I didn’t have the kind of role model to what I did, which was combine being a mom and being a physician. I just had to kind of wing that.”

Determined to flourish in both medicine and motherhood, Dr. Alving succeeded by working part-time while home schooling her daughters. And through home schooling, she discovered her affinity for teaching, which led to a move into academic medicine at a time when it was not a well-established career path.

“It wasn’t easy, but it was fun. I loved seeing patients and I loved teaching the students and the residents, but I also loved bringing up my kids and teaching them; and I wanted to spend time with them as much as possible,” Dr. Alving said. “As it turns out, had I not made that choice, I may not be where I am now and I love what I’m doing, so it worked out really well for me.” As director of SJV PRIME, Dr. Alving works closely with medical students in the program for students who are committed to ensuring high quality, diverse and well distributed medical care to improve health in the Valley.

Dr. Alving-Trinh, 28, shares her mother’s love of teaching. Prior to her medical schooling in Louisiana, she spent two years as a chef educator with the Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans. “I taught pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students how to cook. We explored the world through food. New Orleans has a rich culture, with food at its center, but many kids, especially those in public schools, grow up with food insecurities and in food deserts. Through the Edible Schoolyard, we gave students an opportunity to have a positive interaction with food. We tasted new foods, explored different cultures, and supplemented the traditional classroom material in a unique environment,” she said.

“Your parents obviously influence you. Throughout my life, I’ve watched my mom be a successful physician and help her patients as well as be a mom in the family and be present every day. She can have both her career and her family life,” Dr. Alving-Trinh said. “And that’s probably been one of the biggest influences within medicine, of how I want to practice in the future. Like my mom, I want to be in an academic setting, and I want to teach medical students and residents and not just in the classroom but in a clinical setting as well.”

While guiding her children, Dr. Alving said she wanted her daughters to find their own paths. “I’ve been trying to stay out of their way to let them be who they want to be, and it’s been fabulous to watch them grow up,” she said. “I just enjoy watching them be their own independent people and watching the decisions they make and why they make them and supporting them, but not trying to get them to do something.”

On this Mother’s Day, Dr. Alving-Trinh finds it difficult to recall the best advice from her mother. “I feel it’s not a word of advice but just the environment that’s she’s created around me that allows me to grow and to become the person that I am today.”