Team Member Spotlight

August 2020

Julie Nguyen

This month’s featured member, Julie Nguyen from Pearland, Texas, has strong lungs that have powered her to the finish lines of seven marathons, 14 half marathons, and countless shorter races in the last five years. And, as a physician specializing in pulmonology, it’s her job to diagnose and provide care to the lungs and respiratory tracts of her patients.

During this recent global pandemic, Julie has been working tirelessly in her position at Houston Methodist Hospital. Not only is she on the frontline to provide direct patient care, but Julie has also served on a research committee tasked to evaluate various proposed COVID-19 drug protocols and provided professional insights regarding COVID-19 to the television news media.

“As a frontline physician, the recent pandemic has been incredibly taxing and my work is even busier than before . . . and more stressful and challenging with very sick patients,” says Julie. “I feel a great sense of responsibility to make sure people and things are taken care of at work while also worrying about my family and keeping them safe at home.”

To relax, Julie has been taking short runs to keep her balanced. This is helping to manage stress levels down, even on days when it seems there is no time to run. “Recently, I completed a 41-day challenge to run one mile every day per the great suggestion of my fellow Beef member, Rita McKenzie,” reports Julie. “I also have been mixing it up my fitness routine when I can with short bike rides of around 5-10 miles around the neighborhood and jumping rope at home to keep in shape.”

Julie says she was a “late comer” to sports, only taking up running and fitness after age 50. Prior, she was too busy with her education and then, later, juggling a medical career and raising three children (now all young adults). But, after continually “liking” and commenting on the running-related Facebook posts of her cousins, Cindy and Jenny Huynh, she was encouraged by them to join in the fun. “I did it as a challenge,” explains Julie, “not thinking that I would love it so much. But, once I ran my first race, a whole new world opened up for me even though I remember that first mile seemed like a very long way to go.”

Today, there is no stopping Julie. Doing runs in all the National Parks and hiking Mount Kilimanjaro are on her bucket list. Read on to learn more about this amazing lady we are honored to have on the team!

Three Surprising Things:  1) I once ran four marathons in a 12-month period, with two being just two weeks apart; 2) I have been a guest on several Vietnamese television stations to speak about various lung health topics; 3) I like to learn new languages and speak Vietnamese fluently plus a little Spanish, French and Italian.

Other Hobbies:  Hiking, jumping rope, reading and travelling.

Volunteer Activities:  In addition to volunteering for Beef Team, I participate in community health fairs as part of my involvement with the Vietnamese American Medical Association. We provide tips on good health habits, including smoking cessation. In addition, I routinely mentor college students to prepare for career in health care.

Favorite Beef Team Memories:  Running Austin Marathon and chugging down a cold beer for the first time near the finish line, as I am usually not a drinker! Also, practicing and performing the “Thousand Hand” dance at the 2019 Prime Cuts retreat – even though we were out of sync, we had so much fun.

Favorite Races:  The 2016 Houston Chevron marathon was memorable because the week before the race, my Dad was hospitalized in the ICU with a bloodstream infection, heart attack, stroke and ulcer bleed – obviously, I did not think I would be able to make the race. Thankfully, he transferred out last minute and that was my sign to go on with the race. I ran to make him proud and honor the “marathon” fight for his life he had that week. My first race ever is another strong memory. It was the Houston Rodeo 5K and I happened to be on call that weekend. I figured I could finish the race before work would need me. But, as luck would have it, I was paged after the 2nd mile mark for procedure needed on a patient in ICU. Needless to say, I ran my last mile very quickly. It taught me that I could multitask along with a great lesson on time management!

Beef Cuts I Eat Most:  Sirloin and braised beef

Favorite Beef Dish:  Mongolian beef served with rice

What I’ve Learned:  Because of the great grilling sessions, I now know how to pick out a good cut of beef and grill a tasty steak on my own!

Beef Team Love:  Since joining Beef Team, I have met so many wonderful, driven, kind-hearted, generous, and special people from different walks of life who embrace me and make me feel like I belong to a big family. No matter where I go, everyone on the Beef Team is welcoming and I have met many who I know will be lifelong friends.

Motivation:  I find that running is a great stress reliever from my busy work at the hospital. Running with the wind blowing relaxes me, recharges me and gives me the needed “me” time I crave after a hectic day. For a long time, I felt run down without any energy the way my patients often complained to me. Now, the adrenaline surge makes me feel like I am on top of the world after every run. I have in turn used my love of running to encourage my patients and colleagues to engage in a healthier life style, whether walking or running.

Inspired By:  Actually, I am very inspired by Hung Nguyen, a fellow Beef team member, who has been running marathons for more than 20 years. He mentored me and his coaching and tips helped me to finish my first marathon under 6 hours! His energy and positive outlook are really infectious and his favorite saying of “Mind over Matter” keeps me going when my legs don’t want to. I also admire many other Beef Members like Adam Eiler, Mark Coleman, Lynn and Rob Furman, Jocelyn Williams and many others. They are incredible and prove that age is only a number and you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Pain is temporary but discipline is forever.

Training Partners:  I usually run alone due to my hectic schedule but occasionally get to run with my cousins. We motivate each other when we post our runs and encourage the others to do the same.

Biggest Fitness Obstacle:  I have worked 26 years as a physician and a very busy one at that. This left me with little time for alone time other than with family. For many years, I was on call every other weekend and the only thing I looked forward to was the alternating weekend when I could actually sleep in late. I felt very burned out and was in early stage of depression but running helped get me out of this rut.

Post Run Reward:  I give myself a large fruity drink and a good massage in my massage chair afterwards.

Favorite Race Distance:  The half marathon is my favorite because I don’t have to train as much and the distance is long enough to feel challenged without causing undue injuries to my feet.

Favorite Quotes:  “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going,” and “Don’t worry about the destination, just enjoy the journey”.

Dream Celebrity Running Partner:  I would love to run with Kevin Hart, the comedian. He’s also a late comer who ran New York and Chicago marathons based on a challenge. He just has so much energy and even though he’s small frame, he’s powerful and so relentlessly driven!

Race Morning Fuel:  I chew Twizzler candy and drink a protein shake before a big race.

Best Advice:  Break up the running distance. For example, like doing two 6+ miles to finish a half and three 8+ miles to finish the full marathon. It makes the goal more achievable in your mind and you have something to aim for. The secret to finishing a run is mental and not just physical stamina.

Favorite Running Shoes:  Sketchers “Go Run” . . . inexpensive and easy on the feet!

Favorite Run Song:  “Eye of the Tiger” because the beat keeps you going and going


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