Employee Voices

Paying It Forward

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Alexandria Hien McCombs shares the story of her family’s journey to freedom and her commitment to helping others succeed.



Read time: 5 minutes

When Alexandria McCombs, managing chief counsel at McKesson, faces challenging times, she recalls a saying her father repeated often.

Things can be messy in the middle, but all that matters is the good outcome at the end.

It’s a hard-won lesson he learned while helping his family evacuate after the fall of Saigon, in what was then known as South Vietnam.

Alexandria’s father, Commander Chuyen Van Nguyen, South Vietnamese Navy

Alexandria’s father, Commander Chuyen Van Nguyen, South Vietnamese Navy.

On April 30, 1975, young Alexandria and her family were barricaded in a naval compound. Her father was a commander in the South Vietnamese Navy and they were waiting for the signal to leave—a signal which meant it was no longer safe for them to stay in the country. Shortly after midnight, Alexandria’s father carried her as her mother and four siblings followed through the crowd rushing toward the rescue ships that were waiting in the naval shipyard.

Her family successfully boarded a ship. But the ship’s engines failed, leaving them docked.

Her mother panicked as she watched other ships sail farther away while engineers worked to fix the problem. While their ship was one of the last to leave, it was repaired before it was too late. And to her father, it was all that mattered. They were on their way to freedom.

Alexandria and her family would later learn they were part of the largest humanitarian mission ever conducted by the U.S. Navy.

“At times I think, whenever there are challenges that make you have a detour from your original path, that’s just part of life. Things can be messy along the way,” says Alexandria. “Ultimately, things will work out if you stay persistent.”

Inspired to Create Her Own Path

Those words would ring true as Alexandria reflects on her storied path to McKesson. After her family settled into their new town in central Pennsylvania, Alexandria contracted a viral infection during their first winter that made her unable to walk. Concerned for their daughter’s health, Alexandria’s parents relied on the little English they knew at the time to seek treatment at a local public hospital. She recovered completely, and the pediatrician who cared for her left a lasting impression.

“He was so kind and respectful,” she recalls. “He treated me and my family with the kind of dignity and compassion that was inspiring.”

As Alexandria grew older, she decided to become a doctor and provide others with the same level of care she received from that pediatrician years before. She even wrote to the American Medical Association to learn what she needed to do to become a pediatrician. But she discovered a problem: she didn’t like biochemistry or the sight of blood.

Alexandria’s family in their new home in the U.S.

Alexandria’s family in their new home in the U.S.

Unfazed, Alexandria decided to pivot and pursue law to play to her strengths in writing and analysis. Later, she learned she could specialize in health law and created her own path to working in healthcare.

“This is as close as I can get to practicing medicine,” Alexandria laughs. “It’s rewarding to have an indirect part in helping with patient care.”

After diverse career experiences that spanned nonprofit health systems, multi-specialty physician practice groups, payor, and healthcare tech settings, Alexandria brought her passion to McKesson in 2020. Today, she leads McKesson’s Pharmaceutical Solutions & Services (PsaS) legal teams that support the company’s strategic relationships with hospitals and health systems, specialty physician practices in the oncology space and other areas, as well as the Pharmaceutical Technology and Innovation Group.

“It’s a dream job,” Alexandria says of her role. “I’m able to apply a lot of my previous expertise and experiences, but in a different and innovative way.”

Advocating for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Her early experience as a refugee and a young patient fueled her ongoing commitment to promote diversity, equity and inclusion for the benefit of patients. It’s also part of the fabric of the culture at McKesson, where embracing diverse perspectives, backgrounds and talent is an important part of advancing health outcomes for all.

“People want their healthcare provider to understand them,” Alexandria says. “That’s why it's important to celebrate diversity. Having our colleagues bring their own uniqueness and rich experiences makes us more in tune to supporting the specific needs of our patients and our customers.”

Alexandria feels right at home within the inclusive culture at McKesson. She’s tapped into the extensive network of employee resource groups (ERGs) to establish connections with her new colleagues, including the Pan-Asian Voices for Excellence (PAVE) ERG.

Alexandria, her husband and children attending the State Fair of Texas

Alexandria, her husband and children attending the State Fair of Texas.

PAVE leads events throughout the year to celebrate traditions from the multitude of countries, ethnicities and nationalities that make up the AAPI community. Alexandria explains that ERGs like PAVE also help employees embrace a deeper and more nuanced understanding of different cultures and perspectives.

“I’m passionate about dispelling the ‘model minority’ myth when it comes to Asian Americans,” Alexandria says, referring to the stereotype that someone of Asian American descent is complacent because they are quiet. She challenges those assumptions at work and in her community. “I’m quiet, but I make sure my voice is heard.”

In fact, she says PAVE has not only provided her a voice, but given her more confidence in using it, too.

“I’ve always had a fear of public speaking,” she laughs. “PAVE provides plenty of speaking opportunities for members, so I’ve pushed myself to be in those situations. It’s one of my personal goals to overcome that fear.”

PAVE also provides Alexandria an additional path to live out her personal mission of giving back in honor of the sponsors, mentors and advocates who’ve helped her throughout her life.

“There were so many people along the way who saw a lot of potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself, and that’s something that I’ve tried to do with others – to provide that level of encouragement so they can realize their own potential,” she explains. “When I think of diversity and inclusion, it’s about seeing the core essence of a person and what they’re capable of achieving, and it’s been incredibly gratifying being able to help them do so.”