Patrick Lam was seven when he fled South Vietnam on a wooden junk with several aunts in 1979. They spent several months on the small Indonesian island of KuKu. A refugee agency then assisted them on their journey as refugees to the United States, first landing in San Francisco before being sent to Port Arthur, Texas, and finally to the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Over the next few years they followed work and moved to several Chicago suburbs, with Patrick attending a succession of schools. Patrick did well in school and eventually earned a medical degree.