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Entrepreneur Tom Yuen Reflects on the Power of Nursing

Tom Yuen
Tom Yuen

UCI alumnus (’74) and Foundation trustee Tom Yuen knows nurses. His enduring relationship with the profession began in earnest in 1980.

That year, Yuen celebrated the birth of his first daughter. It was also the year he launched computer manufacturer, AST Research with friends, Albert Wong and Safi Quereshy. Life was going well.

Then, quite unexpectedly, Yuen’s kidneys failed, resulting in a lifelong need for dialysis.

Today, Yuen’s two daughters are grown. Following success at AST, he went on to wins with other businesses and currently leads PrimeGen Biotech, a private research company dedicated to exploring the regenerative powers of stem cells. And, three times a week he meets with a nurse for kidney dialysis. 

After all these years, Yuen still doesn’t know the precise reason his kidneys quit working. But he does know that the nurses who have traveled on this journey with him have been vital contributors to his health.

“I’ve been so blessed,” Yuen said. “I mean, if I look back, if I did not have the comfortable relationship with the nurses who have helped me, life would have been much more difficult. It’s the sense of respect, compassion and understanding.”

As an entrepreneur who helped shape the personal computer industry, Yuen is attuned to the impact that technology is now having on the nursing profession. Indeed, nurses today are set “smart” pumps to regulate the flow of fluid or medication on IV lines, update electronic health records, apply bandages that detect vital signs, visiting patients through telehealth programs and much more.

“I think today the demand on nurses is greater in terms of skill. Not only do they have to have nursing skills, technology skills, equipment skills, there will be more and more advanced equipment,” Yuen said. “In order for the patient to get the best medical benefit, and also be in a comfortable setting, you have to have the right trained nurses that can project the caring and concerned attitude of the hospital and also manage the skill demands—from how you change a dressing to how you use equipment for monitoring a condition.”

This is where the UCI Program in Nursing Science comes in. The program educates graduates to fill basic clinical and advanced practice roles. It also prepares them for educational, administrative and research positions across the healthcare delivery system, as well as faculty positions in academic institutions. In January, UCI announced a generous gift from the Gross Family Foundation, which will establish a nursing school and assist in the construction of a new building to house it. The contribution will help the university address critical healthcare concerns.

As an Anteater, Yuen is pleased that his alma mater is seizing the opportunity to provide a top-quality education for more talented students; students who are driven by a passion to serve.

 “So there’s a critical nursing shortage,” said Yuen. “I was so glad to hear that Gross Family Foundation made a contribution to upgrade the nursing training facility at UC Irvine.

“The doctors are important, but [the nurses] are the ones who are most impressive in terms of the care and the dedication. I really felt very blessed that I’ve had the firsthand experience of good nursing care.”