Quoc Vo '95 (Biological Sciences)

Searching for solutions: Sac State alumni are looking out for your health

Quoc Vo travels light. Whether he’s in a third-world village, lacking sophisticated medical equipment, or at New York’s ground zero after 9/11, between his head and his hands Vo ’95 (Biological Sciences) feels he has all the tools he needs to treat a multitude of medical ailments.

An experienced osteopath with an extensive knowledge of anatomy, Vo works in the Spine Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, specializing in non-invasive treatment for pain. As a doctor of osteopathy, Vo stresses a whole-body approach in addressing his patients.

“More and more research is showing there is a psycho-social connection to pain,” Vo explains. “I look at not just the source of the pain, but how a person reacts to it. We do that through a long interview to get to know the patient and then suggest activities, medications or even surgery, but the crux of the treatment is hands-on.”

He has compiled a collection of remarkable experiences that make a strong case for his field of expertise. Vo lived in New York in 2001. Days after the attacks on the World Trade Center, he organized a group of medical practitioners to help treat workers and volunteers around ground zero.

“We went to a staging area two or three days after the attacks and set up to treat people,” Vo says. “We were able to do osteopathic treatments and help people who were just worked to exhaustion. We moved to a high school next to the World Trade Center and we were there for two weeks.”

Most recently, Vo visited Burma and ventured into the Himalayas to a small Chinese village. He stopped at an indigenous hospital to volunteer and was fascinated by their use of Ayurvedic treatments, plant-based medicines (including highly effective pepper leaves as an anti-inflammatory treatment), and acupuncture to treat pain and soreness.

Vo says the holistic approach has always fallen in line with his way of thinking.

“I remember on my medical school committee interview in Sacramento, they asked me why I didn’t apply for (allopathic) medical school and I said (osteopathy) meets up with my personality,” he says.

At Sac State emeritus biology professor Rose Leigh Vines impressed Vo with her extensive knowledge and personal stories from the field. Vines has a cervical rib that Vo says can be a painful birth defect, but she overcame the discomfort and inspired her students with her lively teaching.

“She presented anatomy in such a way that it was challenging, but also endearing and professional,” Vo says. “She inspired me to look further into anatomy. She very much touched my life. I was always interested in the field, but she honed it in.”

Vo began his college career as a pre-med student at UC Davis, but he transferred to Sac State, seeking more accessible faculty and a welcoming campus environment. He was friends with several people in the Science Educational Equity Program and the Multicultural Organization of Science Students, which he says eased the transition to Sac State.

“I made friends in that club and they were open-armed, so welcoming,” Vo says. “The undergrad experience can be a really daunting, discombobulating experience, but it really felt comfortable, like I really fit in at Sac State.”

Vo says his first year at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona was smooth, thanks to the strong anatomy foundation he gained at Sac State. He graduated with his doctorate in osteopathic medicine in 1999 and completed his residency at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y.

Vo seemingly can’t get enough of osteopathy. He teaches anatomy classes at UC San Francisco and is an active member of the Osteopathic Cranial Academy, a non-profit devoted to the profession.

“I love what I do, not only as an osteopath, but I love anatomy, which is why I’m still teaching,” he says. “It’s basic science but it affects you throughout your career. I hold where I came from—Sac State—close to my heart. I’m very proud.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Sac State Magazine.