BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
National APAMSA’s core mission is to provide support for our member’s efforts and activities. Some of the ways we do this is by providing educational resources, connecting our members with partners, or with money. Do you ever wonder where that money comes from? To find that out, I asked one of our sponsorship directors about her entire life.
Introduce yourself, what is your role in APAMSA?
I’m Junne Park. Well, Jiyoon Park, but I go by Junne. I am a national sponsorship director and I was the 2016-2017 co-president of the Medical College of Wisconsin APAMSA chapter.
As national sponsorship chair, what do you do?
My biggest job is to attract sponsors and donors to give to APAMSA and support our conferences and activities. I develop relationships with organizations and I also draft contracts and deals with them so we can help support our members in ways like offers, discounts, grants, etc.
If this interview was a documentary, who do you think should narrate it?
Hmmmm so I have a friend from highschool that I’m still very close to. We’re entirely different – I’m a medical student and she’s a law student. When we get into problems, hard times, or just discouraged, we talk to each other and it’s nice that we’re both students but we study different things. I have other friends who are working and making money (sad laugh) and they actually enjoy their time on vacation instead of using it to study (sadder laugh) for step or a bar exam. Talking with her gives a different perspective of some of the hardships from someone being a student. We’ve also known each other for a really long time so we know how each other thinks, each other’s personality, etc. I think she would be a really great narrator for me because I sometimes have trouble expressing my emotions and thoughts, but she gets some of the complexities in my head that I can’t express to others.
So basically, when you say something, she could read between the lines and tell us what you REALLY think.
Exactly. Especially since I’m not a great orator and have some trouble expressing my thoughts and logic, or maybe she’s just really good at it since she’s going to be a lawyer and that’s what she does for a living. So yeah, I think she’d be a great narrator for me.
Tell me about life before med school.
I grew up in California and went to high school there. My high school was very unique in the sense that the student body population was 75% Asian Americans. The environment was on the competitive side and that’s honestly why I wanted to get out of California for college. I realized I lived in a bubble with majority being Asian so diversity for me was not the same as for most. I really wanted to get out of my bubble, so that’s why I ended up going to University of Rochester. Honestly, that’s where I think I grew the most. That’s the first time I experienced discrimination and it was the first time I experienced what it was like being a minority. And not just as an Asian American, but also as a Korean American. That really changed me. In Asian culture, you know, parents are very giving when it comes to education. Here I realized the different environments people grew up in and the things people sacrificed for their education. It really opened my eyes to what people have to sacrifice for an education or what they really want to do in life.
What got you through the week in college?
I think what got me through the week were the people around me. No matter where I’ve gone, I’ve made a few really good friends. I find comfort in really getting to know someone and spending a lot of 1 to 1 time with them. So every week me and my friends would choose a day and do whatever – like go out to eat or hang out. If it wasn’t for them it would have been a lot harder to get through the week. Also art, rock climbing, tennis, and like crafts in general. Like painting!
When and how did you know you wanted to go into medicine?
I knew since I was younger, like very young, that I wanted to be a doctor. Part of that was my mom, who wanted to be a doctor since she was young. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to be one and became a nutritionist. When she had me, she had to quit her job so ever since I was young she always put that little thing in my head like, “hey how about being a doctor?”. I realized I wanted to pursue medicine when I shadowed an oncologist in Rochester and saw the way she interacted with patients. Like, when she saw patients, they always had a smile. Like, her patients have cancer, but they smiled when they saw her. They made it seem like they were her family members and she really put in the passion and the work. When I talked with them, they would go on and on about how great she is and how much she helped their families. It made me really want to be like her, to be that person for a patient. Not only as someone to give medical advice, but to help them get through hard times – more than just a doctor. So that’s why I want to pursue medicine.
So you’ve known since forever
Haha, even as far back as 7th grade biology I had this teacher, who was a medical student turned science teacher, who made us memorize stuff like bones of the body, the physiology of the ear, etc. His class was by far my favorite class in middle school and I think it got me started and I just kept going from there. All my experiences in the medical field or academics in that area were very positive so I kept going.
How did you choose the medical school you ended up going to?
So it was down to MCW and the east coast. You know how they say Wisconsinites are nice? They really are. [editor’s note: editor is from Wisconsin, just fyi] So when I had the interview, everyone was really supportive. The M3s and others were all very supportive and happy, like in a happy to be there way. Like as happy as they could be as medical students. I had good conversations with all the people there and even got invited to go ice-skating afterwards. I couldn’t go, but I had a really positive experience, especially considering I was stressed out of my mind. It was a stark contrast to the other schools I interviewed at and left a really warm impression. It came down to that feeling against geography and I picked MCW.
What do you wish you had known before starting medical school?
To have fun. I wish I knew to actually have fun during my free time. Like, after first year summer it just doesn’t stop after that. There’s always something to do. I get anxious when I’m not doing anything, so I wish I had slowed down and really appreciated actual free time and kept in touch with my friends and family better.
How did you get involved with APAMSA?
You know how I said earlier that I grew up in an Asian majority area? So when people talked about Asian minority issues, I really couldn’t relate. The idea that we don’t talk about mental health and stuff like that… yeah it’s true, I grew up not really thinking about that since nobody thought about that. I just got into the mode that was like “well, that’s just how life really is” and my move to Rochester was a significant part of life since it showed me a lot of the norms I grew up with were not normal everywhere else. It was really eye-opening and really showed me some of the unique difficulties that Asian communities really have. So when I got to MCW, there was an organization fair on the first day and I just signed up for everything.
So you’re in APAMSA because you signed up for everything on the first day?
Well I joined APAMSA because their table was like “join! Join!” and they were trying to recruit all the Asian Americans hahaha.
Sounds about right.
So I signed up and on the first week of school, that Friday, we had a giant welcome dinner at Dr. Li’s house, our advisor. Like, everyone comes, not just M1s and M2s, and it’s a really big deal. The current officers make a meal for everyone and we just mingle and hang out. It was great to see and talk and get to know people and that’s how I started off. In all that excitement, and because I was a gunner M1, I applied to be the M1 liaison. As the liaison, I went to a lot of the activities and got the feeling that this was something I really wanted to be more involved with. Then there was a regional conference, which was conveniently in Chicago and right after an exam, and it was really great. Kevin (National APAMSA president at the time) actually spoke at the regional conference and, you know Kevin very well, right? He’s really passionate about how like APAMSA is going to be the greatest organization on earth and how like doing community service is so great blabla bla and how it changes the world. It actually sorta got to me, honestly it really got to me, and that’s how it began and how I got more and more involved with APAMSA.
He guilts plenty of people into national participation
Yeah, he guilted you too, right?
Yep. So how did that turn into a national role?
After the regional conference I became the co-president of our chapter. The national conference was also in Chicago, which made it really easy to go. I applied to be regional director and the national position but ended up with the national position.
What made you want to be a sponsorship director?
I wanted to do sponsorship because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do yet. I knew from working as co-president that the people working with the money get their fingers in everything, so I picked sponsorship because they interact with a lot of people in the organization.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in APAMSA so far?
This is really weird, but I’m most proud of the sponsorship package I took point on creating this year. When I started on national board, I felt the biggest problem I had was that I just didn’t know what to do. I had a vague sense of what I had to do, but I was really lost with who I had to contact, who we already contacted, what we already did, what we didn’t do, and I think the sponsorship package was actually the first step in creating some kind of organization in the sponsorship branch. I think it will make it a lot easier next year for the new directors for when they get started they’ll know what they have to do.
So what was the biggest challenge for you putting this packet together?
I think it’s like a mix of communication and … actually it’s just communication actually. Like, I’m in Wisconsin, a lot of people are on either coast, and it’s just easy for people to do things their own way and find sponsors in their own communities and figure stuff out for themselves without having to wait for someone else to okay it. One of the biggest problems we had was people not knowing who was in charge of what. I think we’re getting to a point where people are in agreement about what our approach to sponsors are, and I think that’s very important. We’re avoiding multiple people within the organization going to the same sponsors, which I thought made us look disorganized. Now it looks more like we have a system down and makes us feel more professional.
What is your vision for national APAMSA?
My vision for APAMSA is for it to become an organization where it’s not just focused on a single community, but on the Asian American community as a whole. To talk to others and bring in other opinions and even get through cultural barriers is important. I know there are real differences between those communities, but there are so many shared experiences and things we could learn from one another.
What do you think the most pressing APA health issue?
I think the most pressing apa health issue is the lack of communication between different generations and different Asian American communities. Like, for example, different generations have different thoughts on eastern vs western medicine. I wish there was more communication between the two. Like depression I think the younger generation has a better grasp on, but it’s not something that’s limited to the younger generation. I had a friend who’s a 3rd year and he was talking about this older Asian American gentleman who wasn’t taking his medicine even though he knew all the benefits and would rather drink ginseng tea instead. I think instead of us as a doctor going to speak to them, it’s better if a family member talks to them because they’re more likely to look to family members than doctors, unfortunately. If we keep dividing our resources and efforts to individual, communities it will reach less people than if we look to the Asian American community as a whole.
More broadly, what do you think is the biggest problem with healthcare today?
So I think healthcare is a human right, but I think the biggest issue is figuring out how to give people this right in the most fair and economically feasible way. I don’t know if that makes sense, it’s a very broad idea, but I’ll leave it at that.
So if you weren’t pursuing medicine, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would probably be doing something with health policy. I’m very interested in stuff like population health, like how certain laws, ideas, or economies change how people receive or take or not take healthcare. It’s really interesting because even the smallest of things that people don’t think are related to healthcare, actually are. For example, the budget on agriculture or sugar or the EPA all influence health in one way or another. It’s really interesting to see the connections, even if they’re vague in some ways and vary in significance.
What’s the last book you read?
Hmmm it’s been a while, I think it’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Oh, they’re making a tv show for that right?
Yeah! I wanna see it so bad. I love books like that, like 1984, brave new heart
Brave new world?
Oh, yeah brave new world haha sorry. Cuckoo’s nest, just like I love the utopia books an-
You mean dystopia?
Ahaha yeah, whoops.
I mean, it’s ok if you feel those are your ideas of utopias…
It makes me feel like a depressing person liking these books, but you can really learn a lot from them.
What book would you recommend everyone read?
Ok I’ll do a fun one since all my favorites were depressing. I’d recommend The Martian. Especially if you like science and stuff, it’s a really great book. I like how it blends science and fiction. Lots of people think of science as some abstract, intangible thing, but in this book it makes it seem more grounded and I enjoyed that about this book.
What’s a first world problem you’re dealing with?
The balance of time needed to go to the grocery store and studying. I haven’t gone to the grocery store in like 2 weeks and I’m like out of food but I have to study. I’m sitting here thinking if I can last another day without going to the grocery store. I’m like living off of freeze-dried food right now.
You’re really taking that Martian stuff to heart
Well a lot of the Asian food available here is freeze dried, so it’s like that kind of stuff.
What tv shows are you watching?
I’m too busy to watch tv shows, but I’m a dedicated viewer of buzzfeed’s “worth it” videos. It’s like two guys going to restaurants at different price points and picking what they think is most worth it. I’m dedicated to it, they’re 10 minute videos, and I watch on 2x speed.
I can’t watch videos in regular speed anymore.
What can you not live without?
Family, friends, food, etc. But seriously, sunlight! Once I spent one weekend with the blinds closed, just locked myself in to study and I just went crazy.
I mean, you could have opened the blinds?
I could have… but it was a cloudy day anyway, it was one of those horrible days in Wisconsin where it was just not good to go outside and you just stay inside. So I just didn’t leave the house for the whole weekend and I realized I just couldn’t do it again. So now I study in the library by a window.
If you could choose anyone in the world to make you dinner, who would it be?
Anyone in the world? My mom.
Awwww, what would she make?
So in korea there’s this dish with thinly sliced radishes and arranged around it like the sun there’s thinly sliced egg, cucumber, carrots, and beef. You put it in a wrap and eat it. So whenever I come home she always makes it for me. I’ll send you a picture [insert picture here] . Everytime she comes home she makes that, a soup that I really like, and she always makes Korean barbeque. And homemade kbbq is better than the restaurant stuff and it’s like a gathering for my family so it’s like an event. All these little things make it that.
What would you like to tell the members of APAMSA?
I would tell them, no matter what you’re doing, it doesn’t even have to be apamsa stuff, just be proud of what you’re doing, what you have done, and what you’ve accomplished, because even though it might not seem much to you, like checking bp for a few people, it’s a lot to them. What you’re doing really is making a difference.
Thank you, Junne, for taking the time to talk with us! If you have any ideas or want to talk sponsorship, you can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org