In honor of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, the Rush APAMSA and Rush South Asian Student Association hosted a panel discussion on the impact of the model minority myth for Asian communities, immigrants, and non-documented individuals and professionals. The talk also focused on the challenges and life experiences of Asians and Asian Americans, especially regarding health disparities and community perceptions on recent immigration policy. Our panelists included Selma D’Souza, Executive Director of the Indo-American Organization, Hong Liu, Director of Midwest Asian Health Association, Syed Shah, Internal Medicine Physician at Rush, and San Luong O, Director of Programs at South-East Asia Center.
We would like to recognize UCSD APAMSA’s amazing work hosting a mental health conference in May-
“Starting this year, we are excited to have geared our focus toward mental health and wellness, in particularly Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities. We want to raise awareness about the stigma that have harmed so many innocent lives, lives that would have been saved if people had received the help they needed from family, friends, and healthcare professionals. We believe that a Mental Health conference in May (Mental Health Month) would be a perfect opportunity for to raise awareness and to inform and educate our peers about the different aspects of mental health and how it intersects with gender, race, and socioeconomic class.
We named the conference “Burdens and Barriers: Breaking (API) Mental Health Stigma”. We welcomed Emily Wu Truong, an award-winning advocate for mental health awareness in particularly API communities, as our keynote speaker. Additionally, we invited a number of highly-esteemed healthcare professionals that hosted workshops on the various intersectional topics that have to do with mental health.”
BY: ROBERT FU NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
With over 4000 members in more than 80 chapters, keeping tabs on APAMSA’s membership is a tough task. Samantha Wu, one of our National Membership Directors, has the job of starting and maintaining those relationships with the chapters. Sitting down with Samantha [on the internet], she recounted her experiences from blindly joining APAMSA, revitalizing her local chapter, and taking on a national role in the organization. But what she recounts most fondly was her campaign for turtle liberation.
Introduce us to yourself, what is your position in APAMSA? "My name is Samantha Wu, I’m a 4th year med student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and I am National APAMSA’s co-membership director."
What does the co-membership director do exactly? "There’s two of us, I’m more in charge of new chapters, chapters that re-initiate, and I keep track of all the current chapters and their statuses"
What do you think is the hardest part of your position? "We’re all busy med students, so it’s really difficult at times to keep in touch with people. That’s why there is a membership director role to begin with. We try to make sure chapters stay active and are active in their communities and we try to make sure that they know they have support here and that we’re here for if they need help for whatever. New chapters in particular sometimes have a hard time getting the ball rolling if they don’t have a foundation set yet, so we try to help get them set up and going. Since all of this is via telecommunication, I haven’t met most of them in person so I’m talking with them on video conference or telephone, but mostly email. It’s very easy for them to focus on school and other things and fall out of touch with us and it’s kind of difficult to maintain constant communication."
In your free time, what kind of media do you like to consume? "That’s tough, probably depends on my mood. I’m a big fan of Pandora and dancing in the room. I probably have Pandora on at every free moment possible. Getting up, showering, breakfast, etc. The stations vary vastly as well. So… music."
In that case, if someone were to write a song about you, who would you want to write it? "Probably my mom? Only because she knows me, so she could actually write from the heart." In what style? "Hmmm probably like a country love song." So your mom as early Taylor Swift? "Only the early one, not the current one. Not that I don’t like the current one."
Tell me about your life before med school. "I was actually pre-law at Cornell. I did a pre-health post bac and did some post grad science work before medical school. I didn’t know what kind of healthcare I wanted to go into, so I actually worked in an optometrist's office and as an orthodontist's assistant at some point as well. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a dentist or optometrist or something. I eventually decided on medicine because I liked the option of doing other things instead of just eyes and teeth."
What inspired you to go into healthcare? "I always wanted to serve under-served populations and I thought pre-law would be the best way to do it. I actually studied Asian studies and “law and society” thinking I would focus on immigration law and I studied urban planning in the architecture school, which is very under-served focused. I thought putting them together would work towards the same goal as helping people in need and the under-served so I thought it was a good course of study. But then I realized I wanted to help people in a way that’s like really necessary. Not that a lawyer doesn’t, but like in a way that I could help literally any person anywhere" In what way was that? "Like, life and death is essential to the human experience and I wanted to be a part of that so I thought that a better way to help people would be medicine. Also I really like science, like I realized I didn’t want to read and write all day long, and I find science really interesting so I wanted to learn more about that"
What are some hobbies of yours? Besides medicine. "I do ski-patrol here at school. We’re the ones who wear the red and yellow jackets that monitor the ski slopes and stuff. It’s quite cold and long winters in northern Michigan so I’ve taken great joy in outdoor snow activities in my free time." Did you start doing those things when you went to Michigan? "I used to snowboard a ton before med school. Not skiing though, I did a little bit of skiing as a kid but I’ve done it a lot more now here."
How did you choose the medical school you went to? "Throughout college and my time between, I really wanted to focus on helping the under-served. One of the great things about Michigan State is it’s a community based med school" What does that mean, a “community based” med school? "So basically the medical school was built to make doctors who would work in various communities. Michigan as a state is really diverse. You’ve got areas like Detroit, a huge metropolitan city, and Flint, which you know has the water crisis, or you can drive 8 hrs north and get to the upper peninsula which is very rural, so there’s just vastly different types of medicine right there just looking at the populations. Michigan State has 7 campuses all over the state. So 3rd and 4th year we pick which campus we want to learn from and they’re very focused on serving their populations."
Is that idea in general what attracted you to these types of programs? "Yeah Michigan State wasn’t the only one that was focused on the under-served and community based. There was basically a set of schools that matched these focuses. I really like the environment and attitude of Michigan State so it was everything I wanted in one place which is why I chose it."
How did you get involved with APAMSA? "So my big sib when I just started at MSU- " Big sib? "We have big sibs, like a mentoring program, a second year that they match you with based on your interests. She had just restarted APAMSA at Michigan State. The national conference, which was maybe 3 weeks after school started, was an hour away at University of Michigan. So she was like “join APAMSA” and I was like ok, and then she was like “come with us to this National Conference thing” so I was like yeah I’ll come. So we were sitting there at the conference and nobody was running for regional director of our Midwest region so she nudges me and is like “Sami, do it!” Basically I was peer pressured into running for it so I became a regional director.
I also eventually became president of the local chapter of APAMSA and that was great. I felt like I was able to get people who I don’t think would’ve gotten involved in APAMSA to start participating. That was a great experience. It’s just fun. Especially since at Michigan a lot of the people who were interested in international health were not from Michigan. So a lot of people who were from Michigan who hadn’t had much exposure to these issues have gotten to learn a lot, which was really cool for me. I came from California and went to Cornell and then came to Michigan, where there's not a large population. Like I don’t think people knew here that hep b was a big deal with Asian patients compared to like in California I think most people know that, so it was good to get even a couple people who didn’t know that before informed about something new."
How did you end up being on national board? "It was cool seeing the organization grow throughout the years so I wanted to try something different and find out more about the avenues of it so I chose to be sponsorship director.I had done a lot of fundraising throughout my volunteer experiences through the past, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to contribute to APAMSA. This year, I decided to be membership director specifically because it was going to be my last year and I thought it would be nice to get people involved in APAMSA before I left. I would be able to interact with people all over the nation and I would get the full, broad taste of APAMSA from everywhere. It was fun going out to regional conferences and meeting people throughout the country, compared to my first two years which was mostly with people in the midwest, and it was nice this year to go to new York and meet more people and branch out my APAMSA network."
In all your time on APAMSA, what are you most proud of accomplishing? "Thinking back, I’ve watched this organization grow so much in these past years. I’m really proud of its progress and I’m proud to be part of that. I mean it’s so official now, so professional, we do such good work, and to see great leaders that have come and grown to help build this organization really is amazing to watch and I’m really lucky to be part of it. It’s crazy to see how much we’ve grown. Like the website - thinking about the website from back in the day and then looking at it now, it’s awesome now. Not that it wasn’t awesome before, but it’s so professional now, I think we’ve done such a great job. Y’know as membership director I get contacted by people who are from medical schools I hadn’t heard of and they want to join APAMSA because they went on our website and they read what we’re all about and want to join. All through our website! It’s pretty cool. It’s also really cool that it’s run by medical students that don’t have time." When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like much of a selling point "Haha you have to remember that we’re not professionals yet and it’s a very large organization and if you look at what all these chapters do across the nation it’s amazing work. So many community events and health fairs and stuff. Lots of stuff that help communities all over the place. So I’ve been proud to be a part of it."
What do you think is the most pressing APA issue? "This is not just an apa issue, more of a national one, but that we're made up of so many groups of people yet our health care guidelines are not population specific. I think the biggest issue is not having enough resources or guidelines for the APA population. Like, Screen at 22 is a perfect example (diabetes). How many people do you think were missed because normal bmi for an Asian person might be different for a non-asian person? I think we need, globally, to have more specific health care research for specific populations. People like APAMSA who do work for the specific population can be one of the ones who lead this kind of effort."
What is your vision for national APAMSA? "I want to see it grow. I want to see more stability – a lot of it has to do with having individuals who are passionate about continuing it. We need to keep people actively participating and passionate about these issues. I think it starts with letting people know and keeping them involved on issues that can be worked on. Maybe since I’m membership director I see chapters coming in and fading out during the year. The problem is, if people don’t know there’s an issue to address, it’s hard to draw them in to participate and keep them wanting to help. Every chapter has their own unique identity, so it’s hard to require everyone to do things to keep them involved, so it’s hard to keep everyone active and involved in their own ways."
If someone asks you to tell a fun story about your life, what story do you default to? "So at the local china town near me growing up they would sell turtles for people to use in like turtle soup. So I would go Chinatown and buy these turtles for like 5 bucks and go to Stone Lake in Golden Gate Park and release them. I used to also buy the fish and release them but I’m pretty sure we were just feeding the other fish. We did that until at some point they didn’t let you take the turtles live probably because they realized people were keeping them as pets so I couldn’t do it anymore." Maybe it was because they weren’t licensed to sell pets? "Maybe? But I was thinking maybe I wasn’t the only one that’s releasing them into the wild. I could’ve changed the ecosystem in Golden Gate Park maybe haha. Because we probably released at least like 20, maybe more. We used to do it a lot. I still remember doing that as a kid. Err not just as a kid, I did it for a long time. Until they didn’t allow us to anymore."
If you could go far back and redo anything but medicine, what would you be? "I probably would’ve been a teacher. Like, I feel like medicine is teaching, which is why I want to do it. Every patient you have, you teach them so much about whatever is going on. A lot of people don’t know what’s happening physiologically with them with what they’re coming in with so I feel like we’re always teaching everyday so that’s probably why I chose that."
A penguin walks into your room right now wearing a sombrero, what does he say and why is he there? "He says “it’s nice to see you again, I missed you” because that’s totally a friend I would have to hang out with." That was an incredibly decisive and much more coherent response than I was expecting. "No really! I love penguins and I love fiestas, I’m pretty sure he’d be a friend of mine."
What do you do to de-stress? "Play the piano. I have a baby grand piano in my living room that I like to play." Wow that’s hardcore "I actually hated lessons growing up. I only took them because my mother forced me to because she liked hearing it. I am so very grateful that I know how to play now because it’s probably the best stress relief I’ve had in med school."
What’s something you’ve done that only you would find amusing? "That’s a lot of things haha. I have a little goose friend lives on the beach. There’s this one beach I always go to that’s right by my school. I go run there, eat lunch there, watch the sunset there and I would see this goose there sometimes. I haven’t seen him there probably for about a year and he showed up again the other day and I couldn’t believe he was there! That’s why I took a picture (below) I found that really amusing."
What advice would you give your 15 year old self? "I ummm I don’t think I’d give myself any advice. You know, I think I am the person I am today because of all the good and bad experiences I’ve had. I’m happy where I am and I think you grow and learn lessons from the mistakes you make in the past. I wouldn’t want to not make the mistakes I made because I might not be who I am today."
If you could steal credit for any song/film/book, which one would you claim? "Ender’s Game. I want credit for Ender’s Game." Why? "It’s genius, it’s a genius book. I think it’s full of good ideas, great entertainment, and there’s huge character development like there’s a lot of characters in it in such a short amount of time. I read it when I was younger and I don’t think I realized or understand the empathy until I got older and read it again. Like, when I was young it was just a cool book, but when I read it again there was so much deeper and more intense than I had seen when I was younger. I love all those books in that series."
Do you have anything to say to the members/readers of APAMSA "I would just want to thank everyone for all their hard work and for making this organization so great. It’s not an individual thing, it’s a collective collaborative effort of all our hard work. We all do our parts and it’s great to see what we can accomplish together. Honestly, it’s crazy to see such a large org being run by so few people at the national level. Its pretty amazing. We have such great leaders who are inspired and passionate to make a difference really doing a good job and really keeping this train going."
Thank you, Samantha, for taking the time to share your story with us! You can reach Samantha regarding her APAMSA responsibilities at firstname.lastname@example.org
Personal: background, where were you born, raised, education? please tell us how you got to where you are now…
Born: New York City;
Background grew up in NY, Maryland, Connecticut, North Carolina, Nebraska, attended boarding school in Massachusetts at Andover, undergraduate at Cornell (Biology and Biometry/Statistics major), spent two years in AmeriCorps Health Corps after college in Jacksonville, FL (first year doing patient assistance at a federally qualified health care clinic helping patients obtain free medications via patient assistance programs, obtain department health clinic cards; second year finding resources for clients at a methadone treatment clinic), did a Masters of Biomedical Sciences at University of Toledo in Ohio for 1 year, then medical school at Tulane University, and now currently a first year Internal Medicine resident at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.
What inspired you to choose healthcare as a profession?
Overall, I had always had an interest in health care because of the mindset of being a practicing physician in that as physician there is always the mindset to try to benefit the patient compared to other fields that I had considered where sometimes there is a conflict of interest or you are trying to defend against what you personally believe in. But two experiences stand out in my decision to pursue healthcare as a profession. My first experience was in college when I participated in OB/GYN research for two summers as part of the NIH Summer Intramural research program; I got a chance to see first hand the interaction between physicians during daily rounds and more importantly I enjoyed the excitement of coming to the pathology lab each morning trying to see if the work I would put together could generate exciting findings. The other experience was my two years serving the AmeriCorps National Health Corps after graduating from college. I made this decision because I wanted to get out of the “education bubble” and before making a full commitment to medicine, I wanted to be part of a day to day operations at a clinic, and I got this and a lot more by having the opportunity to be a part of a clinic team at a health care clinic. In this experience, I got a chance to work with a lot of patients with difficult socioeconomic backgrounds and saw first hand some of the barriers that they dealt with from transportation to difficulties with making lifestyle changes due to living in a food desert and not having an accessible gyms. I was part of a team and enjoyed the teamwork aspect of communicating with the physician, nurses, front desk office, nutritionist, and finance officer. Most importantly, I felt excited coming to the clinic everyday and envisioned myself wanting to be a physician leader in a clinic like that someday and this affirmed my decision to go to medical school and beyond.
Please tell us about your experiences at Tulane University–School of Medicine
My experience at Tulane was very rewarding; I chose Tulane because of its very diverse community and the charm of New Orleans but most importantly because of the school’s commitment to interacting with its community. At Tulane, I really focused on being involved with the local APAMSA chapter in order to outreach with the Vietnamese population. As a group, we did Hep B screenings in the West Bank and NOLA East near supermarkets and churches. We would do Hep B education out at the Tet festival and do a Sushi Fundraiser to help generate funds for Hep B screenings and education. Also, given our unique outreach to the community, I had a chance to participate in multiple student-run clinics; I did a couple of primary care community clinics, participated in a TB clinic, and also volunteered at a women’s clinic downtown. During my rotations, I really enjoyed getting to know the patients, and still miss getting a chance after rounds to hang out and learn about the patients on a personal level. And of course, having the chance to live in New Orleans, it was a special place for me in getting a chance to learn about a unique city; of course there is Mardi Gras every year (which I missed not getting to go to for the first time this year) and the French Quarter but places such as uptown there are many local shops, there are endless options of food that go beyond the jambalyaya, beignets, and crawfish that every person in New Orleans has to try, and most especially the people who I found to be the most down to earth and real people that I’ve met in the many cities I’ve lived and visited in.
Where and how did you learn about APAMSA?
I learned about APAMSA via an e-mail I received my second week of med school about students who might be interested in attending the 2012 National Conference in Michigan from the local chapter president at the time. Since at the time I knew nothing about APAMSA, I wrote, “I might be interested in going on the trip.” I got a response from the local chapter president telling me to book my flight and that I was going to the conference without any further questions. Our local chapter hadn’t had an event beyond the club fair yet at the time of the National Conference, I was pretty blown away and felt pretty overwhelmed at my first national conference seeing the extent of the work these physicians and other health professionals had done towards API health. It was quite a chance encounter for me to join APAMSA since I didn’t do an organization like this before so it showed me that sometimes the best opportunities you get are the ones that come very spontaneously!
What positions in APAMSA did you hold? (school, regional, or national level)
Local Chapter Co-President
National Pre-Med Director
National Membership Vice President
National Vice President
How did these positions impacted your education in medical school and how did it impact your professional growth?
I think that my involvement in APAMSA enhanced my education in medical school because it brought some perspective to what I was learning in medical school. The major issues and topics that we discussed in APAMSA whether it was Hepatitis via my local chapter’s health screening or one of the hepatitis leaders giving a speech at the National Hepatitis conference or participating in a workshop on mental health at the regional conference or discussing the merits of expanding on health advocacy at our National Board Meeting, would often give me a big picture on some of the issues that I feel that as a future physician I would face in the context of what I was learning in my classes and rotations. In terms of my professional growth, I think that my role in APAMSA has allowed me to become a more well rounded medical professional in thinking beyond the issues at the hospital such as thinking about the big pictures in some of the health disparities we face and be mindful of some of our most important initiatives in advocacy whether it is mental health or health care access. Most importantly, these positions really taught me to develop leadership skills. I had previously been on leadership roles in organizations but I hadn’t been put in a position where I had to learn to manage groups of people, to develop public speaking and networking skills so that I could represent the national organization at APAMSA events and conference calls, and to handle difficult situations where I was the one looked to make the decisions. Physicians are required to be leaders in some shape or form whether it’s running an inpatient team, leading a professional society or being a community leader and I will always look back towards my positions in APAMSA as the foundation of these leadership skills.
How would you like to see APAMSA grow in the future?
First off, I want to commend the people that have led APAMSA over the years in what they have done. I am grateful for Dr. B. Li and Dr. Jhemon Lee for having the initiative to put together a unique organization over 20 years ago that focuses on API health issues that did not exist before. I have been honored to be a part of what we have built over the past five years in terms of creating new important initiatives such as mental health, expanding on our major initiatives namely hepatitis, and seeing new chapters all over the country be founded. Our organization has also gone through major structural changes that while sound mundane required a lot of hard work from numerous board members and I am proud to see where it is today with our current leadership structure, our database which we nearly started from scratch that now has over 4,000+ members and re-structuring our regions to improve the quality of our inter-chapter relationships. But I am most proud of the thousands of community hours that our chapters have engaged in directly reaching out to different API communities all across the country in providing health screenings, education, and enrichment.
Having just attended our recent National Board meeting and having the chance to hear the thoughts and provide some input to our current leaders, I think APAMSA is continuing to grow in a very positive manner. I know that APAMSA is very conscious of being an inclusive organization and there is an active effort to promote health topics that include South Asians and Pacific Islanders. There are discussions to expand on our advocacy in trying to be involved in LBGTQ issues in the APIA community, and APAMSA is developing protocols to be more proactive in addressing key topics in health advocacy. There are some cool new initiatives such as our APAMSA Clinic Consortium, partnerships with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, and we are connecting better than before with our local chapters via things such as the local chapter capture, a database that reaches out to over 4000 members, and significant increase in our use of social media. On a personal level, I am hoping to be able to find ways for alumni to be more involved in APAMSA, being able to hopefully participate as a speaker or a panelist in future APAMSA conferences to provide perspective to our current members, and to help our Physicians Advisory Board/Recent Alumni Advisory Board be more involved with our current National Board.
What advise do you have for current medical students?
My advice for current medical students would be to find the things that you truly enjoy in medical field and focus on those things. One major difference from my undergrad days to my medical school experience and was that instead of joining many clubs and interests, I really focused on APAMSA and my research and put a full effort into those interests; I felt that I got a lot more out of my couple of deep interests in medical school than the many clubs I tried joining in high school and college. To the first and second years, I would try to make sure that you find volunteer experiences whether it’s your local health fair or the student-run clinic or doing a house build for Habitat for Humanity because it’s important to get to know your community beyond since them at the clinic or their hospital bed. To the third and fourth years, take the time as a medical student to truly get to know your patients. I think the biggest challenge for me at work as an intern has been not having the time to sit down and having a conversation with the every patient about their life and how they feel emotionally about things while they are at the hospital. The patients all carry a very unique story and I really encourage you all to get to know these stories and learn from it! Last but not least, learn to find some passion in something outside medicine. For me, as a medical student, I found my involvement with APAMSA to be an outlet away from rotations and schoolwork since I got to network with a family of people that was focused on a common passion. I also found long distance running as a Of course, don’t hesitate to contact me about any advice from getting interested in medicine to life in medical school.
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. Like lectures I can’t watch videos in regular speed anymore.
What can you not live without? Sunlight ........ ok 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 email@example.com
APAMSA is proud to announce that the 2017 National Conference will be held on October 7, 2017 at UCLA. The conference will feature a wide variety of speakers, workshops, panels, and experiences including healthcare leaders, physicians, researchers and executives.
A National Pre-Medical Student Day will be hosted the day after as part of the APAMSA National Conference on October 8th, 2017.
More information regarding registration for the National Conference and Pre-Med Day will soon be updated.