Published 12:00 am Friday, September 25, 2009

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE — Sometimes a retiring coworker is given a retirement party out of begrudging respect. But sometimes a retirement party is given out of a genuine love for the person retiring. Even just a brief visit with Dr. Son Trinh’s coworkers during his retirement party Thursday could show his belonged in the latter.

“I love him. I’m going to miss him. This clinic will not be the same without him,” gushed River Parishes Mental Health Clinic Accounting Specialist Anita Bordell just before the start of the festivities.

Trinh has worked at the clinic since 1995, although “worked at” might be putting it lightly for someone who served as the medical director.

His gentle voice and caring demeanor seem to contrast the long road Trinh took to get to that day. He started his medical career as a military doctor in 1968 during the Vietnam War, coming to America after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Upon arrival, he landed in Pensacola, Fla., eventually receiving refugee physician training in Miami.

But it would not be long before his profession would take him to Louisiana. His first job in this country was at Angola Prison. After six months he moved on to Hammond, where he spent nine years, and then to Tulane University, where he would complete his training in psychology and stay until in 1995.

That is the year Trinh would finally make it to the River Parishes. Even though he had finally landed in the place where he would spend the rest of his career, it was not all smooth sailing for the doctor.

A Lakeview resident, he found his home under water after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005. According to one of his coworkers, it was two years before Trinh could move back into his home and then only to the second floor.

Still, despite the many hardships, Trinh seems to have never lost his love for life and the people around him. Faith Farlough, president of the board at the clinic, said he always made sure the ladies at the office had corsages to wear on Secretaries Day.

“You spend one-third of your life (at work), so make it pleasant, make it cheerful,” Trinh said.

But easier times lie ahead for the doctor, who said he’ll take three full months off, a time during which he plans to get in some exercise and once again take up painting, a pastime he hasn’t had much time for lately. Still, he does not think he’ll be able to stay away for long. After the three months he hopes to return to the clinic a couple of times a week.

“I was planning to retire last year, but I didn’t know what I would do,” he said.

Indeed, when asked what he’ll miss most, his coworkers and patients top the list.

“I love my patients. I have had the privilege to serve all the patients of the River Parishes,” he said in his thoughtful if accented English.

Bryan Armstrong, the computer specialist for the clinic, noted the love is mutual. “Some of the patients won’t see any other doctor,” he said.

It is a love shared by everyone at the clinic.

“We love him, and we’re going to miss him,” said Farlough.

If such sentiments are the measure of success in one’s life, then the doctor has had heaps of it.

And perhaps some words uttered by Trinh offer a glimpse into the secret of his success. “You do the right thing for the right people, and it will be appreciated.”