Dr. Sam Keo is now an honored clinical psychologist working for the county of Los Angeles, and his story is one of triumph over adversity—but not without a cost.
The third of eleven children, Sam was in the eleventh grade when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. They abolished schools and sent the children to work on farms. Those they deemed a threat were tortured and starved. Sam was sent to these farms, where he was beaten, tortured, and left for dead on numerous occasions. His father and sister were killed by the Communists, and four of his younger brothers died of starvation and disease before they reached the age of ten. But Sam refused to die; he eventually made the journey to what he hoped would be a better life in America.
Like many of his fellow Cambodians, Sam struggles with the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. His own unique experiences, from trauma to success, have made it easier for him to empathize with others facing similar stresses. There are uncalculated challenges in the underserved Asian population, especially among the former refugees from Southeast Asia, such as the Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese people.
He was told that America was the land of opportunity, but that was a dream the young immigrant found difficult to pursue. His Cambodian caseworker told him that he would never amount to anything, but he refused to let his dream die either. Now, he shares his story.
Dr. Sam Keo fled his native Cambodia in 1981 as a refugee and today is a licensed clinical psychologist. He is a visiting lecturer for California State University who has been honored for his work on behalf of those who suffer from PTSD. He is married and has three sons; he considers Long Beach, California, to be his hometown.