Bone Marrow Awareness Month: Meet Isabel Qi

AUTHOR: KAREN BACH
UCLA
marrow@apamsa.org

PUBLISHED BY: SOPHIE ZHAO
NATIONAL NETWORK DIRECTOR
network@apamsa.org

As part of our marrow awareness month, we would like to feature some of the incredible members of our API community who battled against leukemia and finding the perfect donor match. Meet Isabel Qi. Isabel is currently in her fourth year at UCLA studying Geography and Environmental Science. In August of 2016, she was diagnosed with leukemia and in February of 2017, she was discharged from the hospital after beating cancer.

join.bethematch.org/APAMSA

 

Faces of APAMSA: Saad Shamshair

AUTHOR: JIUN YIING HU
RESEARCH DIRECTOR
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
research@apamsa.org

PUBLISHED BY: SOPHIE ZHAO
NATIONAL NETWORK DIRECTOR
network@apamsa.org


This is the inaugural post for our new monthly interview series, Faces of APAMSA, spearheaded by Jiun-Yiing Hu (Research Director), Janki Patel (Diversity Director), and Emilee Tu (Alumni Liaison), which aims to explore the diversity of experiences and passions of our student and alumni members. We hope you will enjoy these conversations as much as we do!

Saad Shamshair

Saad is an M2 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is a strong proponent for political engagement and Rutgers being the best university of all time. He grew up in New Jersey and is a recent Maryland transplant. He’s been actively engaged in politics since 2010. In his free time, he loves cooking (baking specifically, he makes an amazing chocolate pecan pie), photography, and co-parenting 2 kittens, Hiro and Tadashi.

We reached out to Saad as our first interviewee to share his experiences in growing a sociopolitical awareness and transforming his concerns as a citizen and student physician into positive action.



Give us a brief timeline of your life.

I’m 24, turning 25 this year—big year! I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. I came to the United States when I was five and I’ve been living in New Jersey pretty much ever since. I went to local schools there—public high school, Rutgers for undergrad, also a public school. I studied public health and cell biology neuroscience, then took a year off between college and medical school working at Deloitte Consulting. That’s when I came to Maryland and ended up here, and now I’m in my second year of medical school.

So you moved to the States when you were 5—what was that like?

I don’t remember too much about it, but I remember going back and forth a lot. My mom didn’t speak English, my dad was working pretty much full-time… he wouldn’t get home until 8 o’clock. From what I know, that’s really similar for many immigrant families where either one person is the breadwinner or they just don’t see their parents a lot. I was very fortunate to have my mom home all the time, but I didn’t speak English until first grade.

My brothers and I having a solid time in America.

Have these experiences in any way shaped your focus in life?

I think I just see things from a different lens. A lot of my passion for global health and giving back to my community began early on. Part of my thought process was that I knew how poor my family was before coming to the United States. When my dad finally got a job, we started doing better financially, and now he sends money back to our family over [in Pakistan]. Though my family is doing well, I still have extended family living in very poor conditions… There’s just not a lot of strong support for our country. People aren’t going back to Pakistan to do work because, unfortunately, there are countries in that area that need even more help.

Are you thinking of going back to Pakistan in the future to do global health work?

I do want to spend a few weeks out of the year in my future career to go back and do whatever I can, but I have a different perspective on it now after speaking to our last course director. He’s Indian, and I asked him why he goes to Haiti, Zimbabwe, and other countries to serve, but not India. He explained that there’s a lot more people going [to India], and the places he goes to, they just need much more help because nobody goes there. So, I don’t know if I’d necessarily go back to Pakistan but if I do, it would be nice to give back to people I know.

Teaching friends the sacred art of the bow tie.

So, you’re involved in a lot of things. Tell me about some of them.

I’m co-president with a good friend of mine, Owen Lee-Park, for Citizen Physicians, and co-president with Kaitlyn and John for the medical ethics club here. We just put on events and recently, we held a discussion about the ethics of end-of-life care, and how physicians and patients navigate that conversation when their beliefs are in conflict. It’s something I recently discovered I really enjoy doing.

I wanted to engage in both politics and medicine, and I found that health policy was good for that, but I just feel like that’s too broad a word, so now I’m just trying to hone in on what I really do enjoy about health policy. I think the intersection of law, medicine, and ethics, is where I want to be, so I’m actually taking a Critical Issues in Healthcare class this semester at the Carey Law School.

That’s great! Given that we’re going into a profession where we’ll be actively making ethical decisions all the time, I think students would really benefit from having medical ethics more emphasized in our curriculum.

I agree that it’d be good to have some more formal training so you have a framework to work with, or else you’d just be relying on the doctors you train with and that might not be ideal. Or you might not feel confident to speak up against your superiors if you have a different thought process about what’s being done. I believe we could always do more humanitarian training but, you know, med school in general, when you want to add something, they just add it. They don’t tend to take something else away, and we already complain about how much we have to do. [laughs]

How did you get started in politics?

I guess the start of my political activism was in high school. A friend of mine asked me, “Do you want to work at this guy’s office?” He was our local assemblyman in New Jersey, and his office was two streets down and he actually lived next door to my house. I never saw him but I worked with his staff on constituent relations for a year and a half, and did “Get out the Vote!”

Did you believe in all the parts of his platform?

Ah, no, I don’t think I really did. It was just something to do at that point. I didn’t really know who he was—he was a lawyer and his daughter was our age, so some of our classmates knew her, but at that point, I didn’t really critically think about what I was doing. It was just something I had the opportunity to do, and I wasn’t doing anything else besides applying to college. I met some really cool people though, so after my freshman year, I joined student government. I really, really liked that so I started working for Senator Frank Lautenberg—he passed away recently—of New Jersey and I got to meet a lot of cool people there too, and so that’s when I started considering politics as more of a career. I actually considered double majoring in politics, but all the reading and writing wasn’t really for me, and I didn’t really have time with the science major, so I found public health to be a good mixture of everything, where I got to learn some policy behind public health decision making. I was also a part of student government throughout college.

I LOVE RUTGERS!

Did you stay engaged after college?

In my gap year, I worked at Deloitte in federal consulting at the Department of Defense. During this period,  I had a lot of time to read so I started reading more and learning more about health policy. I read a book by Ezekiel Emanuel on why America doesn’t have a single-payer healthcare system, but Canada does, and how all these movements started. It’s really interesting if you understand how things were before the ACA, and how things are now, and we’re just having a completely different conversation about healthcare than they were when they were making that law. When they were making that law, these things weren’t taken for granted, because they didn’t even exist. For example, if someone had cancer, they couldn’t get insurance because they couldn’t get a job. Now, people are like that’s obviously ridiculous. So we’re having a very different conversation now.

Spending an evening calling legislators to voice our concerns about the ACA repeal

And how are you continuing your involvement with politics today?

In my first year of med school, I attended a talk by Citizen Physicians regarding a bill about Death with Dignity in Maryland. Some of our classmates had a discussion about this: Do they support this bill? What restrictions should there be? Maryland’s [bill] is crafted so the patient has to be able to self-administer, but that brings to question, well paraplegics aren’t going to die in 6 months but some of them might be ready to end their life because of the quality of care they’re receiving or quality of life they have now. So there’s a lot of patients left out of this, and as a physician, would you feel comfortable doing [the procedure]. After that event, I was like, “I definitely want to be part of that org”, so here we are!

It’s been a tumultuous year, for all of us. What do you think are the greatest challenges America faces with healthcare in its current state and with our current administration?

I think our biggest challenge is how to move forward from where we are. I don’t think we’re in a bad place. The administration is currently trying to defund the individual markets where patients are able to buy insurance without their employer. They normally get help from the government, so if [the government] tries to reduce those payments, there’s just not going to be many options for people, and that’s hard. But I like to be more optimistic and hope that a more progressive party will win in 2018, and hopefully the mic will come back and we’ll be discussing something very different like how do we want to improve the Affordable Care Act? I think that’s a conversation we’re not well-equipped to have right now. People want to say “We just want Medicare for all” or “We want a single-payer healthcare system”, but that doesn’t really take into account how the reality of how America’s insurance marketplace is currently set up.

Part of what drives healthcare costs up so high is that insurance companies kind of bid for the lowest price from hospitals, but hospitals have multiple buyers, so there’s just this price-gouging where everyone’s just like “I’ll pay you more!”. So if Medicare sets a rate like say, we’ll pay $20 for this thing, a private insurance company who will want to save money will say that we don’t want to pay that low but we also want to make sure that our insured patients get really good care when they show up, so we’ll pay double what Medicare is offering you… also, one thing I don’t hear people talking much about is: what’s going to happen if we let the government be the sole insurance player? There’re a lot of jobs that are going to be lost. We don’t have a good social safety net here.

One thing politicians say is—and you can answer this—do Canadians come here all the time for healthcare since you have to “wait so long” in Canada? — I certainly don’t. — If you look, the only institute saying that is a very conservative institute in Canada, and they have issues in their sampling, it’s really bad data, studies, and a sample size of the richest people for elective procedures. People are coming here for elective procedures because they can get them done faster, but no one is coming here for life-threatening emergencies because of waiting time. Half the things we need care for, we don’t need urgently. So I don’t think America is ready for that conversation but I’m glad we’re having it here, now.

Do you think that by the next election, voters will better appreciate that it is a nuanced issue and be more open to discussing it?

Yeah! No Democrat is going to run on a platform of not expanding the ACA. That’s just not a feasible strategy anymore. There used to be talk about a “moderate liberal”, who’s anti-abortion but progressive in every other way. But if you look at Doug Jones in Alabama, he’s unapologetically pro-choice. So, you don’t have to pretend to be moderate anymore to win anywhere in this country. So you’re going to see a lot more progressives, and those people are going to support healthcare for all.

Aaron Shapiro, Executive Director of Citizen Physicians, giving a talk at the University of Maryland SoM.

Medical professionals and scientists tend to shy away from politics. I overheard you the other day having a heated debate with a classmate about why he needs to vote. Do you have any suggestions on what med students can do to support or advocate for their communities, or be more civically engaged?

[laugh] Yeah, I was arguing with a classmate about getting him to vote and he was being facetious and saying things that might rile me up or saying that he supports fairly conservative policies, but the thing about Citizen Physicians is that we’re non-partisan. We just want to get you registered to vote and make sure you get out there. I mean, America doesn’t vote. 50% of the electorate votes for the president, but if you look at the drop-down ballot (who did you vote for Senator, Congressman, local offices, etc.), those numbers drop down to like 30-10% really quickly.

You don’t have to vote for everything, but I think at the very least we should get people registered and educated so they know where to go. So, for medical students, I think you need to make sure that medical school doesn’t take over your life. There’s still stuff going on in the world, and I know that we all feel very busy, but it doesn’t mean we have to shut everything out. We should still keep an eye on what’s going on. And if [health policy] isn’t your passion, you can still stay informed. There’s lots of great daily mailing lists and apps that give bullet points of what’s going on, and also provide a reference article you can read when you want, so I think it’s a combination of staying informed, and when you think there’s an issue we should be working on, you should call your congressman and ask them to support this. A couple of our friends just called for net neutrality a couple of weeks ago, and I know the FCC voted against it, but I think it’s really cool that a lot of us were calling… and for a lot of us, it was the first time.

Don’t just email your local representative or tweet them. I mean—do those too not only to spread awareness and to let other people know that you’re also supporting [a bill], but also make sure you call them because that’s what’s really going to most effective. The process for calling your state representatives has been made very simple and straightforward with websites like Call My Congress and 5 Calls, so anyone can do it! I’d highly encourage you take a brief moment to call and exercise your civic right!

Do you have some specific resources you can recommend to readers for staying informed?

I’d look at The Daily Skimm and I used to read Politico as well on healthcare and what specific agencies are doing. That might not be of interest to everybody [chortle], but I’d definitely recommend something like the Daily Skimm or a morning consult kinda thing.

If I could recommend some podcasts too, you have to listen to the New York Times The Daily every morning. It comes out at 6 am so if you want to get an early start to your day, you can listen to it on your walk to class. That’s when I listen to it. It’s like 20-30 minutes long, you can listen to it on 1.5x.

A heavenly chocolate pecan pie.

On a lighter note, what do you do for fun?

I like to bake, just like High School Musical, just like that guy [Zeke]. No, I’ve recently started baking. –Wait, who bakes in High School Musical?– One of the basketball players. He’s like, “I like to bake!” He just name drops a bunch of dishes and everyone’s like, “Dude, sit down!” because they’re singing this song Status Quo. [sings chorus of Status Quo] It’s a bad song. Anyway, besides baking pecan pie for our school’s annual chili and dessert cook-off, I’ve also baked Nutella lava cakes, tres leches for friends’ birthdays, pumpkin pie which didn’t come out well for Thanksgiving (Sorry to my brothers. They were home, and it was ok). I make this really good chocolate cake, and cheesecake too. I tried making matcha cheesecake. There was matcha in there but it didn’t turn green, and I recently learned how to fix that, thanks to my boy Makoto. Just kidding, I learned from a video online. You add matcha to water first. They don’t tell you that in the instructions or anywhere!

I’ve also been trying to read a lot more. I was only able to read one book last semester. Ah, I can’t remember the title —sounds like a memorable book— I read it in August and then moved onto my next book, If Disney ran your hospital. This guy worked at Disney but was also a hospital administrator. I was also reading this book Brain on Fire, where this journalist gets diagnosed with a psychiatric illness. I don’t know what her illness is yet because she’s just starting to experience symptoms. Anyway, those were two books I was reading and had to put down because, you know, school gets caught up with you. I like to read and go to the gym. I used to lift but now I’m looking for something more sustainable, something that doesn’t require as much equipment, for times when I don’t have time to go to the gym. I’m going to try to get back into running, although I didn’t love it.

Are there any truths that help keep you grounded in med school?

There’s one book I read after I graduated. It’s called The Defining Decade. It’s about how the 20s are such a critical time in your life. If you’re just going from relationship to relationship until your 30s, then you’re like why am I single, or if you just let go of all your dreams, and you’re wondering why can’t I accomplish anything? The book talks about how these are transformative years of your life where you’re setting habits and patterns that are going to define the rest of your life, because you know- they say your brain isn’t fully developed until you’re 25, so you’re still developing. So if you start thinking about good practices now and being more serious about your intentions when it comes to your relationships with other people or waking up early or exercising, these are really going to serve you down the line. The same goes for having good hobbies, so keep those!

Hiro and Tadashi, cat brothers.

If you had one piece of advice for M1s, what would it be?

[laugh] Honestly, there’s a feeling that you have to let all your passions die when you get [to medical school]. You don’t. You really don’t. If you’re letting your passions die because you want to do better in school, the few hours you spend studying instead of something stress-relieving or fun? Do that instead, whatever it is. Like we don’t study on Friday night, we all tend to do something and that’s always fun. I bring my camera whenever there’s an event (photograph above by Saad of the Mount Washington Monument lighting in Baltimore), and now I have a bunch of embarrassing photos of everybody and I really like doing that. If there’s something that makes you happy, you know, hold on to it and don’t let it die, because you’re not entering into something that’s going to be a short run, where you’ll have more free time later than you do now.

 

Thank you so much, Saad! Stay awesome.

(Photos courtesy of Saad Shamshair, Fatima Sallman, Owen Lee-Park. Interview by Jiun-Yiing Hu.)

Breaking the model minority myth

AUTHOR: JENNIFER QIN
AAPI ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
JOHNS HOPKINS SOM
aapi-advocacy@apamsa.org

PUBLISHED BY: SOPHIE ZHAO
NATIONAL NETWORK DIRECTOR
network@apamsa.org

The model minority myth--the perception of success among Asian-Americans--is usually invoked to suggest that racism does not exist, that the success of AAPI communities is evidence that all people of color can succeed if they try hard enough. This myth is damaging not just to AAPI subcommunities and individuals that don't fit within this perception but also to other communities of colors whose experiences with racism are minimized by this comparison. Check out our infographic and read more here: http://n.pr/2F2DuiV

Sources:
Myth 1: US Department of EducationCAPACD
Myth 2: Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou. The Asian American Achievement Paradox (New York: Russell Sage, 2015), 31.
Myth 3: 1966 NYTimes article

 

What exactly is a FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center)?

AUTHOR: VIVIEN XIE
REGION III DIRECTOR
University of Maryland SOM
region3@apamsa.org

PUBLISHED BY: SOPHIE ZHAO
NATIONAL NETWORK DIRECTOR
network@apamsa.org

In my early experience becoming acquainted with the field of medicine, I heard the phrase "social determinants of health" repeatedly. It ended up being mentioned in an essay prompt or interview question for almost every single medical school to which I applied. Fast forward to the first weeks of UMSOM orientation, when we sat in on lectures detailing how the health of some Baltimore patients are so adversely affected by their lack of safe neighborhoods, healthy grocery options, and underfunded public school programs. My longtime awareness of these issues suddenly felt personal, as I saw my new white coat as a new responsibility to address these social determinants of health and ultimately act as each patient's advocate.

What I've come to find is that I think I've been trained well to identify a person's social determinants of health but feel relatively powerless in knowing how to make changes that would directly address them. As a student, I see my classmates putting amazing work into volunteering and community engagement efforts, but this is often unsustainable as a future clinician. I often observe physicians up to their neck seeing patients and dealing with documentation, which leaves so little time and resources to devote to helping a patient address real socioeconomic issues. "Oh, that no-show was because she couldn't catch the bus again? Just reschedule her and hope that she can make it next time." It's frustrating to feel like we will be trapped in a system that prevents us from acting upon the social mission we were taught so early on in our training.

The truth is the system has already recognized this need, and there are interdisciplinary patient care models out there that provide care AND address the social determinants of health. I have been so fortunate to shadow in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) each month as part of my school's primary care program and see firsthand how it provides comprehensive and holistic treatment. Wait, so what is that? I had no clue what a FQHC entailed when I first started, but I now feel that all future healthcare professionals should be aware. I sat down with my mentor, Dr. Tobie-Lynn Smith of Healthcare for the Homeless, to provide some fast facts on this paradigm shift in patient care.

So...what is it?

FQHCs, or Community Health Centers (CHCs), are community-based healthcare systems that provide medical care while directly listening to and addressing the community's needs. Essentially, they are by the community, for the community. FQHCs are meant to care for an underserved population and will provide care regardless of ability to pay (by using a sliding scale system). Any patient care center can be apply to become an FQHC if they fulfill certain other requirements:

  • Receive funding from the federal government (through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA))
  • Provide holistic health and social services
  • Complete annual reporting requirements (the Uniform Data System (UDS))
  • Have a board of directors, with the majority of board members being patients themselves

They are all non-profit and tax-exempt organizations. Currently, FQHCs serve more than 27 million people in the United States. They are often crucial lifelines for communities by providing both care and employment.

What other services do FQHCs provide?

FQHCs are staffed by physicians, nurses, mental health counselors, social workers, and more, working in a team-based approach to care holistically for patients. If a center is not directly staffed by a service, FQHCs must have a connection to one, such as addiction counseling, transportation, and specialty care. In our clinic, they can go pick up the patient from home if he or she has no other means to get to the appointment. In addition, they work to meet community needs through initiatives like farmer's markets and community gardens. At the last board meeting, Dr. Smith was even discussing providing free laundry services to her homeless patients.

How do FQHCs provide care to uninsured/low income patients?

A key distinction is that FQHCs qualify for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid and also receive grants from local/state governments, the private sector, and donations. This is how FQHCs have the financial power to have a sliding scale payment system and provide those extra services listed above.

How were FQHCs impacted by the Affordable Care Act?

With Medicaid expansion, more patients became insured and thus the FQHCs received increased revenue from treating essentially the same patient population. This extra income helped many FQHCs increase staffing, provide a greater breadth of services, move into larger facilities, and have the capability to see more patients within a day.

When did FQHCs begin?

In the 1940s, a physician named Dr. H. Jack Geiger traveled to South Africa and became inspired by a community-based health care model that was able to serve the most disadvantaged patients, even in the period of apartheid. Upon returning to the U.S., Dr. Geiger continued his work in the Civil Rights Movement and saw egregious health disparities that he believed could be addressed by similar community health centers. With a team of health care innovators, Dr. Geiger submitted proposals for funding from the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the first two community health care centers were born, followed by the Community Health Center program in 1975. In 1989, the term FQHC was coined and FQHCs were added as a Medicaid benefit in 1991.

What can I do to help?

Regardless of specialty, I think it's important to remember that FQHCs have a great chance of impacting your future patients. They are a safety net of care for all and act as an invaluable resource for socially/economically complex patients. What's within our power to help right now? Currently, Congress did not extend the Community Health Centers Fund, so many FQHCs are about to receive significantly reduced funding at the beginning of the next budget period. Call your Congress members and let them know that you support all community health centers and recognize their importance in the well-being of their constituents. In addition, you can continuously support with donations to your local FQHC and promote programs that help low-income families receive access to care, such as the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The American healthcare system is complex, confusing, and often frustrating, but it's inspiring to know that FQHCs are working to target health disparities and empower communities with diverse and high-quality care. I hope you all enjoyed reading and learning! Let me know if you enjoy these education-type posts or if you have any topics about which you are passionate or curious!

Sources:
https://www.fqhc.org/what-is-an-fqhc/
http://altfutures.org/pubs/leveragingSDH/IAF-CHCsLeveragingSDH.pdf
https://www.hrsa.gov/about/index.html
https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/federally-qualified-health-centers#for-profit
http://wearepublichealthproject.org/interview/jack-geiger/

Cardiovascular Disease and Type II Diabetes in South Asians

AUTHOR: JANKI PATEL
DIVERSITY DIRECTOR
diversity@apamsa.org

PUBLISHED BY: SOPHIE ZHAO
NATIONAL NETWORK DIRECTOR
network@apamsa.org

Type II Diabetes is rising globally, and can lead to many chronic consequences such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), including coronary heart disease and stroke. These diseases have had a particular impact on South Asian populations—studies show that South Asians are approximately 4 times more likely to have CVD or diabetes than other ethnic groups. Even further, CVD and Type II Diabetes have shown to develop at an earlier stage as well as progress at a faster rate leading to more severe complications in South Asian populations.

Projection data estimates that South Asians will contribute a dramatic 40% to the global cardiovascular disease rate by 2020. The reason for this disproportionate impact on South Asians isn’t completely clear but there are speculations that it could be related to increased insulin resistance within the ethnic genetic pool. Another large contributing factor could be lack of physical activity and high caloric diets which may be characteristic of South Asian ethnic lifestyle.

This is important for health care professionals to recognize in treating South Asian populations so that proper screening methods are established for early detection and appropriate management of risk factors assessed. It’s also important to empower South Asian populations to practice self-management and preventative factors to reduce the likelihood of developing disease. As such, attached below are links to exercise guidelines and Asian food healthy recipes that can serve as a resource to South Asian and all populations.

More information about this topic:
Spiced Kidney Bean Curry Recipe
Bhel Puri Recipe
Tandoori Chicken Recipe
Spiced Lentils and Vegetables with Rice Recipe
Link to additional healthy recipes and resources
American Diabetes Association: Staying Active

Meeting the National Board: Linh Vu

BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
communications@apamsa.org

If you're reading this, you probably got here from one of National APAMSA Social Media Director Linh Vu's posts. Whenever someone has something to publicize or needs help from a wider audience, it is often Linh who puts that publicity package together. Linh is also one of National APAMSA's longest serving members, joining as a pre-med and continuing with her national involvement since then.

[APAMSA] What is your name?
[Linh] I have a lot of names, which one do you want?
Tell us how you settled on the one most people know you as
Well this is a random fact- my name is really long and has 3 ways to say it. My formal one is 4 names long, with 2 middle names. Then I have my school name which is condensed, one word is removed. Then my American name, my legal name, is just first and last name. So there are 3 variations of my name. And it gets a bit confusing since my school ID says one thing but my official documents since I became a citizen say another.
What’s the longest one?
Vu Hoang Vuong Linh. Which means I’m a spiritual bird, I guess.

Now that I know who you are, what’s your role in APAMSA right now?
I’m the National APAMSA Social Media Director. I love this role because it allows me to have so much time to myself for passion projects while also doing something that I actually love. Ever since Myspace was a thing, I learned how to do html coding, layouts, and how to build websites and stuff. From there, I went to Xanga, which was pretty fun to make my own. I used what I learned from Myspace there and eventually to other platforms like Blogpost, Tumblr, and now Facebook. Honestly, Myspace was the most fun because to make my own layouts and designs I had to learn things like Photoshop and html.  That was really fun. It was fun using something more sophisticated than MS Paint… which is now gone 🙁 I guess no one uses Paint anymore. I really want to learn other programs like Adobe Illustrator and more video editing programs. They seem super fun to play around with that would use a new set of skills that I can bring to other organizations.

How did you get started with your involvement with APAMSA?
I got started through UCI’s undergrad APAMSA chapter. At the time I was looking for a premed organization to join. I wanted an organization that I could participate in on a deeper level than just membership. APAMSA at UCI was great because I was treated like family there. We did a lot together like going on outings, going to the APAMSA National Conference, participating in their pre-med days. That’s what I really liked about APAMSA. I joined the national organization in 2014 as pre-med director. I became social media director the year after and stayed with that since then.

What’s one challenge you face as social media director?
One of the things that can go wrong is with copyright content. I’m paranoid from scary stories about getting sued over posting something with copyrighted material. People are so adamant about suing these days that I’m paranoid about that.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in APAMSA so far?
I think I’m most proud of being co-chair of pre-med day at the National Conference. It was my first year being on the conference team and on national board. It was really scary at the time because I didn’t have much National APAMSA experience at the time. I had a hard time communicating with people. I honestly felt a bit intimidated being around all these med students as a pre-med at the time. I sometimes wasn’t sure how to say things about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. I think being part of the National Conference team made me feel a lot better because I was able to interact with them in general. I had a great experience with them and they really helped me realize my vision of how to plan pre-med day at the conference. Working with them, I really grew as a person and I’m glad I had them with me to get through that experience.


What do you think is the toughest part of your job right now?
I think it’s been tough putting together posts that balance getting a message across while considering what parties might disapprove of the content. Our mission is to support and help people, but some of that impact is cancelled out if we upset people with some of our content. But if we limit what we do too much, we also limit our potential to take action. It’s been a learning experience seeing past my own opinions and arguments sometimes to make decisions that are best for us as an organization.

Tell me about your life before now
I was born in Vietnam, in Saigon. I came here [the United States] when I was 8. I think 8 was an awkward time to come here since I had a lot of catch-up to do with friends and school. I was really proud that I was chosen to deliver a speech for my 5th grade promotion, and again at 8th grade, and again as a senior in highschool. Whenever I had difficult times, I thought back to when I first came to this country and how I overcame that initial transition. It makes me proud that I reached where I am today from there.

What are some of your hobbies?
Ahhh I have so many hobbies. I love to dance. I never seriously trained to do it, but I really love to learn new dances- jazz, ballet, hip hop, anything. I love love love fashion. I’m a really chea- Financially efficient person. Fiscally conservative. I love sales. So every time I find an outfit I like, I don’t buy it right away. I go back and check to see how the price changes and I’ll eventually buy it when it’s at the lowest. I’m patient about the things I want to buy and it’s really satisfying to get something after it’s been discounted. It’s just a fun thing to do.
Any shopping tips?
Of course. One - buy stuff off-season. Two - whenever you go to Target, don’t buy things right away. Things there always go on sale.

Any hobbies you want to pick up?
I really want to pick up cooking. I really want to pick up cooking because there’s a lot of food that we traditionally eat is very… unhealthy. Soy sauce, fish sauce, etc. I want to learn cooking so I can learn how to cook healthier and have a better idea of what I’m eating. I want to pick up crocheting because I really like making meaningful gifts for people, something from the heart. And it’s fun haha.

When did you decide you wanted to study medicine?
I think I liked science and stuff first. I was studying bio-sci when I started college. During college, my grandpa had a stroke. I was his health navigator and translator during his treatment because no one else in my family really knew anything about how to take care of him as a patient. I picked up some of that to take care of him. During that experience, I started thinking about how studying biology and science came to how we take care of people. I think that really helped me when I was helping grandpa and made me think about using my interest in science in that way in the future.

What do you think is the biggest AAPI health issue right now?
At some point during my grandpa’s treatment I realized how lucky he was to have access to healthcare and also be with people who understood him. I went into my community to learn about others in similar situations. I learned a lot about the less tangible parts of healthcare. The science and medical stuff we learn doesn’t help if the patients go home and do something according to their traditional methods instead. The balance of learning everything as well as being able to get the message of care across to be used, sometimes against traditional resistance, together make up how a person will be cared for. I don’t think this is unique to AAPI cultures, but it is very prevalent in my experiences with them.

If you hadn’t ended up in the medicine direction, what would you have wanted to do?
I love weddings. I’m a sucker for new beginnings and happy endings. Since I was a little girl, I always pictured what my wedding would be like and what my best friend’s wedding would be like. There’s this one street that is specialized for selling wedding dresses. I would be so happy walking down that street every day to look at the wedding dresses. During my time off from school, I really wanted to take a step back from medicine. I have a friend who is a wedding coordinator, and she let me be her assistant. I learned a lot about the industry and the business of running that kind of company. I got to learn so much about stuff like photographers, cakes, DJs, etc. All the small details that go into making such a large lavish event we call weddings. I love the planning and organizing part, but most importantly I love the wedding part.

What song do you have on repeat right now?
I don’t put songs on repeat, per se, since I don’t want to wear them out. But I do have a song that I will never skip if it happens to come up and that’s My Boo by Usher and Alicia Keys.

What first world problem are you dealing with right now?
My family shares 1 gig of data each month and I hate it! My family doesn’t know what it means to not waste data. I’m very frugal with my data and always look for wifi when I’m out but my parents use data nonstop. They Skype, facetime, load pictures, etc. My data allowance is gone in like 2 weeks so it’s torture for half the month.

If someone just met you, what story would your friend tell to introduce you?
Well, I have three main roles in my life. I’m a student, I study all the time chasing that MD. I’m a daughter, so lots of parents going in and out of my room asking what I want to eat. And I’m a compassionate learner because I’m always open to learning new things, whether I agree with them or not, whether I’ve been exposed to them or not, and whether I want to learn about them or not, I accept them all. My mind is open to all the possible things I can learn in this world. This sort of counts, but also when I did pageants, I did a lot of fashion charity shows that raised money to support different causes. Like one I did was raising money for wheelchairs for veterans. That one was really fun because I got to de-stress a lot. I got to be really girly, do makeup, wear nice things and basically not be a slob in my PJs. It helped me remember that I’m more than just a student, I’m more than just a girl in PJs holding binders of books.

What got you into doing pageants and stuff?
My dad loves the performing arts so he’s been pushing me into doing dancing, singing, and basically anything that puts me on stage. When I was 6 or 7 I emceed a show and I loved it. I love being on stage. I get that adrenaline rush when I’m on stage and all eyes are on you and you’re like entertaining them somehow. So I did this pageant because it was a great chance for me to show off how much I know about Vietnamese culture, since it was a Vietnamese pageant, and I got to participate in a lot of their community events. Also for money for school. That’s probably a bigger reason.

What’s something you do that not many would find amusing?
I like collecting stuffed animals, each with its own memory. There are so many memories in them. I don’t plan on getting rid of any of them because I don’t think anyone can appreciate any of them like I do.
How about that one?
So this is Sandy. I got her at a carnival at Santa Monica. I hate taking risks. I hate spending money on potentially getting nothing. So at Santa Monica they had arcade games and they had whack-a-mole there. Now, I freaking love whack-a-mole. I own at that game. When I saw that game I went crazy. It’s something I actually like, so if I lose I will not be sad because I actually had fun playing it. So I paid a few dollars and I won her!

What TV shows are you watching right now?
I’m actually not watching any shows right now. Trying to maintain those A's in my classes. But when I used to, I liked to watch gentler sitcoms like Baby Daddy, How I Met Your Mother, and Big Bang Theory. I did watch some serious ones like Game of Thrones and Person of Interest. I’m really bad at binging. I mean I’m really good at it, so it’s really bad. Oh I also used to watch Once Upon a Time, since I love fairy tale stuff. But my all time favorite that I can watch any time is Friends.

What makes you laugh the most?
A child’s laughter. I love working with kids. I want to be a pediatrician eventually. A child’s laughter is just so pure, innocent. Just so full of life. There’s so much that could be behind an adult’s laugh, but with children you know it’s out of real happiness. When I tutored 1st through 4th graders, I had like 10 of them per session. The best thing I heard from them was their laughter because it felt like they were happy to be there. It was very warming to me when I put together their lesson plans and stuff because tutoring was probably not their top way to spend their day, so when they laughed or even giggled it made me feel like I was actually having them enjoy themselves in that environment. It really made my day.

Is there anything you would like to say to your fellow APAMSA members?
A message I want to say to APAMSA members is whatever you’re doing now, whatever obstacles you’re trying to get through- own them, face them, and be the strongest version of yourself to overcome these things. At every point in our lives there are new challenges to face. At each new level we reach there’s a new set of challenges. There’s always new stresses no matter where you’re at and it’s ok to stress out at the moment but just close your eyes and always push yourself forward no matter what happens. Just know that the world is more loving and kind than you think.

In this article

Linh Vu

UC Irvine
socialmedia@apamsa.org

Hello everyone! I am from Southern California, Orange County to be exact, and I absolutely love everything about SoCal! You can take me out of SoCal, but you can never take SoCal out of me. I also love to find new food/boba places and hidden gems wherever I go.

You do not know how thrilled I am to be the Social Media Director for National APAMSA! Since I just let out the secret, you do know now. Social media has been growing exponentially and it amazes me that we do everything through social media. We receive news and communicate through from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even Snapchat. Thus, I will make sure that all APAMSA-related news and updates will be available at your finger tips. Let's break the internet with APAMSA's awesome hashtags that will be trending all over social media!

#breaktheinternetwithAPAMSA

Robert Fu

Emory University School of Medicine
internalvp@apamsa.org

Growing up in Atlanta, I was often the only Asian in my grade at school. Maybe the entire school. It was a big school. I actually didn't realize the existence of an Asian American identity until I discovered the internet and Xanga. After starting medical school at Emory, I realized that this lack of awareness wasn't limited to 4th grade elementary students but existed in the industry of healthcare as well. Then somehow I ended up in APAMSA.

As the communications director this year, I aim to promote and market APAMSA's activities and accomplishments in as many ways as possible while maintaining cohesion within the organization. I am always open to new ideas or avenues of operation - feel free to contact me with any ideas or suggestions!

Meeting the National Board: Nancy Dong

BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
communications@apamsa.org

APAMSA has a lot of chapters across the country and they do a lot of things. Nancy, one of our Membership Directors, makes sure that the impact local chapters make rises above just the local level. I was fortunate to get the chance to sit down with her and watch her eat pizza. I also learned some stuff about her life too. 

APAMSA: Introduce us to yourself, Nancy, what is your role in APAMSA?
Nancy: I’m the national membership co-director with Samantha Wu. We split our jobs, so she handles new/reactivating chapters and I maintain and support them and the regions as they go along.
What does “support” mean exactly?
So we try to provide what chapters need to get going and retain them. We started a “monthly chapter capture” form so they can submit their activities to publicize and inspire others and also ask for support, which gets filtered out to our national health directors. We also put together materials for the regional directors so they can get started with conferences and helping the chapters.

Nancy at national conference

Imagine someone’s reading this interview right now. What kind of background music do you want them to hear as they read?
I don’t know about reading this… I just finished watching rick and morty, the third season, so I can’t think of anything but the song from that show. It might be inappropriate though?
I don’t know a thing about it so…
But there’s some really existential messages in that show… so… we can use them in APAMSA’s mission

Tell us about your life before med school
I used to be a highschool chemistry teacher in Los Angeles. The first few years at TFA and the third year, after the program, at the same school.
Wow, is that what you studied in college?
I was a Chemistry/Chinese major in college, yes.

Cool, what was your most memorable experience in teaching?
Mmmm, at the very beginning I wanted everything to go just right, like planned out to the T. But I realized that the best days were the ones that weren’t planned out. There was this one time where I was so adamant about keeping on schedule. I had objectives to accomplish for every single day. Then someone pulled a fire alarm and we had to evacuate outside. We clearly wouldn’t have enough time to come back to class after, so I had everyone bring their materials down with them and we had our lesson outside.

Teacher Nancy with a coworker

So how about life before that?
I went to Williams college in Massachusetts. I was pretty involved in Asian American community groups then. I travelled abroad my junior year, which kind of led to my interest in teaching.
Oh? Tell me more about that.
So it was a public health program that explored health systems in four different countries and tried to figure out how they delivered healthcare differently in each of those countries. We looked at things like culture, government, systems in place, behaviors, etc. That lead me to teaching because I realized that education was a huge backbone for people to get access. Eventually I realized that that wouldn’t be my niche and went into medicine.
Did you plan to do medicine from before that? Or was that something that formed along the way?
Well I was always huge on science, so I had always thought about going into medicine. Every student wants to help the world, right? They want to help as many people as possible. After experiencing this program, I thought maybe education would be that way for me. Like, it catches people at an important part of their lives and it keeps on giving as they grow. I did my third year, outside of the TFA program, to see if I liked it. But there were things I found were missing for me so I decided to go to medical school.
Were you just quoting your personal statement?
No! But maybe I’ve said this recently…

Nancy in nature with her sisters

How did you decide which school you wanted to go to?
I applied mostly to schools on the East Coast and LA. I was in LA at the time and family was really important to me and they were in Florida. I also went to college in a really rural area, which is great, like hiking and drinking apple cider and all that- 
So those are the two things that make this rural area? Hiking and apple cider?
Yeah! That basically gives you the entire image of what it is to live in the Berkshires. And I loved it, but I knew I wanted to live in a more urban area for the next four years of my life. It actually came down to Einstein and Tulane, both had really diverse patient and immigrant populations. I eventually chose Einstein due to the hospital system and the population of the surrounding area.

How did you get involved with APAMSA?
It was first year and at the national conference in Las Vegas. I was really pumped to go to Vegas, didn’t know much about APAMSA, since it was the beginning of the year. First time in Vegas as well.
So because Vegas?
Well…. I was also excited because my first position in APAMSA was actually a regional director and I was really excited that I could be a regional director in my first year in medical school and be able to jump right into it. So yeah, I took a chance.

APAMSA Boba fundraiser

As a member of APAMSA, what are you most proud of accomplishing so far?
I actually feel like I’m most proud of the stuff I’ve done at the local level. When I joined, my chapter was mostly known for the Lunar New Year event and a few small things. We did a lot of restructuring and reorganizing to expand the chapter. Now we have a professional development branch, community service, and social/cultural events. There’s a lot of people active in it, so I hope it continues! I’m really proud of being a part of revitalizing it and moving it away from being known for just social events.
Is there one thing you focused on to make that transition/expansion?
During the first regional conference we organized, I met a consultant in professional development and leadership skills. She had an amazing workshop and she stayed on and has been doing workshops with the region for the last 3 years and as well as at Einstein. So we started offering these unique workshops at school and APAMSA became known for bringing in this new type of event. Then members started getting ideas to go into community service and other expansions.

Region 2 Conference

What’s your vision of National APAMSA in the future?
Well, I have this idea or dream of APAMSA being like, as many parts of APAMSA being automated as possible and running seamlessly. And then all the directors just do what they need to do. Like, basically imagine a hospital where all the administrative stuff is done automatically
So, you’re trying to kill jobs?
No! But now the doctors can focus on what they do and stuff like forwarding emails would happen on their own. I just want people to be able to access what they need to find quickly and easily and then just focus on what they want to do. We’re busy students, you know? We’re not full time administrators with all the time in the world. Ruey has been doing a great job so far putting systems in place, so I guess we’re on an upwards trajectory towards that dream.

Nancy and family

What do you think is the most pressing APA health issue?
I think I would say mental health because…. Like there’s so many cultural elements that go into managing, treating, diagnosing, even being aware of mental health issues that are like unique to the API community. I think that would be something really important we need to focus more on. We need to have targeted skills to be able to work with in those communities.

What do you think is the biggest problem with healthcare today?
Ease. So this past year, I’ve been taking the opportunity of being on a research year to take care of my family’s health. So learning by trial and error, things like getting health insurance, seeing a doctor, being your own advocate, all those things. For my parents, their English is not that bad, it’s pretty decent, but things are made so complex and difficult it’s frustrating. So that’s probably my biggest gripe.

Nancy's paintings

Aside from medicine, what other hobbies/passions do you have?
I like making pizza.
Really? Is this a regular thing?
Yeah, I probably make it once or twice a month. You should get a pizza stone, it makes the bottom all crispy and you can get a crust for like 2 bucks from trader joe’s.
So what inspired this passion for pizza?
Uhhh…. Just copying others? There was this girl across the hall that had one and I was just like, I want one.

If you weren’t pursuing medicine, what do you think you would be doing right now?
I wonder if I would still be teaching. Or… creating the next big app to help people understand difficult documents like healthcare and taxes and stuff. Some sort of start-up, something like that.

If there were no limits, what would you want to do?
I have this dream of creating a healthcare “plaza”. Like, imagine a campus like Google but for health.
What aspect of Google would you be using for this health plaza?
So they take a lot of consideration into architecture, to make someone feel more welcome
You’re focusing on the campus experience?
Yeah, I’m imagining like the aesthetics of the Google campus coupled with inner workings that I haven’t figured out yet. But basically somewhere people can feel comfortable to come and get everything they need beyond just seeing the doctor. Things like applying for loans, taxes, housing, stuff like that. All the social worker stuff would be included as well.

Nancy making new friends with a flight attendant

What song are you into right now?
So I’ve been really into Korean rap recently.
K-rap?
Is that a thing? Do they call it that? I don’t even know.
Oh, I don’t know, but it sounds like krap/crap that way.
Hahahaha, oh well, but yeah I’ve been really into Korean rap recently. Let’s see, there’s this artist out of LA named Flowsik, he has this really deep, deep voice. I don’t know, I just find it really interesting.

What’s something you’ve done that only you would find amusing?
Ummm, uhhh…. This doesn’t even answer your question, but I really like rose milk tea with honey aloe jelly from Patea.
………….ok?
Well we have like a list of all the bubble tea places in NY on a sheet with like descriptions and categories and stuff.

Nancy's first day of pediatrics rotation

What’s your favorite movie?
I don’t like “favorite” questions, but ask me my favorite TV show.
Ok… what’s your favorite TV show?
I really like black mirror and new girl. And I just finished Rick and Morty season 3
What movie made you cry the most?
I don’t know, Korean Dramas. Like, those are not real. I think it’s just the act of them crying, there’s just more on-screen time of them crying.

At a lantern festival in Taiwan

What’s something that you cherish?
I’ve been trying to be minimalist. Marie Kondo, she’s this Japanese master organizer, she says you only keep things that make you happy now and you can throw things away even though you cherished them at one point. You just say thank you for bringing joy and you throw it away.
So… what you’re saying is there’s nothing that you own that you cherish?
No well I can’t think of something right now, ok? What’s something you cherish??
My dolphin stuffed animal I got as a kid at Sea World .
Is that the first thing you saw when you looked over?
No, it’s actually at my parent’s place because I’m too afraid I’m going to lose it if I ever take it out of home.
Ooooh, I know what I cherish. It’s funny because I don’t have it either. It’s a painting that my grandfather did of orchids, which is what I’m named after.  I’m not allowed to display it anywhere or take it anywhere until I own my own house.

If you could choose anyone in the world to make you dinner, who would you choose?
The Jiro Dreams of Sushi guy. He sounds amazing. He’s probably SO wise, he’s probably met like millions, well thousands and thousands of people from everywhere. He’s got years and years of wisdom, yeah.

Nancy in a onesie?

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Maybe to just embrace who I was at the time? Like to embrace your all my quirkinesses and…. Yeah my quirks. Like, being a teacher has really helped me tune my confrontation skills.

When do you feel the most creative?
When I have lots of free time. So like times where I’ve completed a lot of my immediate tasks and have designated time for t o explore. Or or, when I’m stressed I guess.
That’s like the exact opposite.
Well like that’s more like academic creative stuff, like professional creative stuff. I like painting and stuff, like I’ve painted my walls and those are some ways I be creative.

Finally, what would you like to tell our members? Now’s your chance to tell them whatever.
Hmm, I would tell them to think big and APAMSA will figure out how to support you.

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story with us! You can reach Nancy at membership@apamsa.org!

People in this article

Nancy Dong

Albert Einstein College of Medicine
membership@apamsa.org

When I first learned about APAMSA, I was impressed to find out that it is one of few medical student organizations completely run by students. Inspired by student passions, APAMSA's accomplishments are driven by the many unique strengths of its members. I like that. I'm a chemistry major from Williams College and a former high school chemistry teacher in one of the largest latinx communities in Los Angeles. Now, with my growing medical knowledge, I urgently advocate for my parents as we navigate the healthcare system, trying to get them the best care while I'm thousands of miles away in school. As your membership director, I'm lucky to work with others who are also passionate about lifting others, especially our API community.

This year, my projects will be aimed at increasing communication and support channels between the different levels within the APAMSA organization. I designed our new monthly update form, "Chapter Captures". Alongside my co-director, we are excited about expanding the APAMSA family and building our community. I am excited to be your membership co-director to help channel and organize our efforts.

 

Robert Fu

Growing up in Atlanta, I was often the only Asian in my grade at school. Maybe the entire school. It was a big school. I actually didn't realize the existence of an Asian American identity until I discovered the internet and Xanga. After starting medical school at Emory, I realized that this lack of awareness wasn't limited to 4th grade elementary students but existed in the industry of healthcare as well. Then somehow I ended up in APAMSA.

As the communications director this year, I aim to promote and market APAMSA's activities and accomplishments in as many ways as possible while maintaining cohesion within the organization. I am always open to new ideas or avenues of operation - feel free to contact me with any ideas or suggestions!

Meeting the National Board: Jane Wang

BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
communications@apamsa.org

The Health Affairs branch of National APAMSA is one of the most diverse and varied in terms of content, scope, and responsibilities. Jane Wang, our National Health Affairs Director, oversees this branch as well as uses this opportunity to continue her community outreach efforts from years past. I got the opportunity to ask about why these initiatives are so important to her and the organization and to see what was so special about the work she does that she keeps refining it year after year. But most importantly, she revealed the secret to not getting sick during her pediatrics rotation. 

[APAMSA] Ok Jane, who are you? What is your role in APAMSA
[Jane] I’m Jane, a 3rd year at Hopkins and 3 year transplant from the west coast to the east coast. Right now I am the APAMSA national health affairs director

What does the National Health Affairs Director do?
So the health affairs director sort of coordinates the health affairs branch within APAMSA and that consists of community outreach, cancer initiative, bone marrow registration branch, hepatitis initiative, and the mental health initiative. Essentially what I do is aim to coordinate people’s efforts and encourage and build on the different initiatives going on in every single branch. I’d say my role includes a lot of encouragement and concept development and execution.

Local APAMSA's first free health screening

So when you're on the job, what do you spend most of your time doing?
I mostly work with people to develop their ideas to turn concepts into realities. For example, if I coordinate with the community outreach director about the APAMSA Clinic Consortium, I would be working with a couple of folks within that branch and I would rope in other people who would benefit from being involved with that effort too. Some directors have more of their own independence and sort of have their own vision that they’re able to sustain so I let them run more free. But for projects that I’m really really invested in and see a lot of potential for my own involvement, I take more discrete action towards it.

Tell me about life before medical school.
It was good.
Was?
Haha, so I grew up in the bay area in California and I grew up in a community that had a lot of Asian Americans so I think I had a better appreciation of my culture through that upbringing. I went to UCLA for undergrad and majored in molecular and cell biology. When I was in undergrad, I got involved with a group called APA Healthcare and it was through my interactions and experiences with them that I came to really appreciate the challenges that APAs face in reaching care and the sort of the cultural and linguistic barriers that come along with being part of a community that may or may not be fully equipped to access care.
Huh, tell me more about that.
So essentially in APA healthcare we would go out into the LA community and we’d conduct free health screenings, work with local leaders there to put on health fairs and education talks, etc. I became a leader in that group and got to see behind the scenes during discussions with leaders in the community about what were the barriers to healthcare access in the APA community. It was through a lot of that exposure that really taught me about the APA experience and that sort of led me to pursue that in medical school as well. I was president of APA Healthcare in my last year and helped define a couple of new initiatives that I was really passionate about.

Jane with the family


When you went to college, did you know you wanted to go to med school?
I didn’t, really. I was considering a lot of other things before hand. I was actually really interested in law. I was very interested in social justice and in making a powerful impact in people’s lives. I had also been interested in business as well, just because I could see a lot of social entrepreneurship opportunities within the business space with room for creativity.  It’s always very attractive but ultimately thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and the public impact I wanted I chose medicine because I thought it could have the biggest discrete impact on an individual’s life and it had the most potential for me to do good, I suppose.

Are you still interested in stuff like law and business, now that you’re in medicine?
I think that having been interested in it, I will never really lose that interest. But I think I can foster it in different way. For example I think that the beauty of medicine is that it’s not confined to a single path, right? You can take your medical degree and start a nonprofit, you can start some sort of venture that can really help folks or create new technologies that motivate and empower people to take better care of themselves. I think there’s a lot of intersections that medicine has with other fields that aren’t quite as well appreciated in our academic community yet, but are really promising and exciting and I personally feel that’s where the future of medicine lies, but who knows haha.

Tree hugging in Muir Woods

Before medical school school, what were some of your hobbies?
In high school I was actually really involved in my high school newspaper. I was the opinion editor and had a column and it was a lot of fun. I also played badminton, I know that like sounds really weird -
...probably not very weird in the bay area
-Haha true, it was relatively common there so we had JV and varsity in a team of like 200 people.
Any opinion pieces you’re particularly proud of?
My co editor and I wrote this column called “the MSJ bubble”, which is our high school. The culture was sheltered in some ways and relatively stressful in others. So we wrote about about how our conception of the world was limited and could limit the scope that we had in that kind of a community and sort of being infused with the cultural influences of our region and our school. It was interesting to parse apart different aspects of culture with this weird like self introspection of what is it that we can’t see right now and how does that compare with the real world.
Neat?
Haha, photography was also something I started when I was in college and for me it was a way to like escape the hard sciences that I was engrossed in. I would go out with a couple of friends to places pretty close to LA and shoot in like an alleyway or the back of a restaurant or something like that. For me it was a way to use my right brain in addition to my left brain - um, am I getting that right? Cuz the right brain is the one that -
Sure
- so yeah that was a really fun way to like experience a more creative side of life.

Jane in her happy place in Big Sur

You kinda told us a little about APA Healthcare and community outreach, tell us about your experiences getting involved with APAMSA.
So I got involved my first year. I ran to be the national community outreach director and for some reason I was elected. In my first year I really focused on understanding different chapters’ needs and to build a program that could meet them. I also realized through my own experiences that it’s really challenging to find the right support network to execute the events you want to implement when starting an organization.

Medical school friends

Is there a story behind that?
Yeah sure, for example in order to find a group that could provide adequate hepatitis screening, we looked locally in the Hopkins network and tried to network with the Baltimore health department to see if they could provide services to folks. It was very challenging since we didn’t have the connections. So what I ended up doing was reaching out to some community health partners I’d worked with in LA and they connected me to a group that did hep screening in DC. It was in that roundabout way that we were connected to a group that had a local group here that we just hadn’t heard of.
Sounds like you took the long way around
Yeah, I guess in going through that experience I realized that there needs to be a better network for folks to find groups with similar missions so that we can all help each other in this mission of serving a vulnerable population. So I created a health screening guide to try to help guide people in what it took to start a new health fair, what things to consider, some of the resources we should have access to, and some liability issues that schools might have concerns about. So yeah I really didn’t want people to have to reinvent the wheel every single time and overcome the same hurdles that others had already overcome. It’d be a lot of wasted energy that could be used in other ways.

What made you want to be on eboard?
I think that working with this group and being able to see some of the impact that we had on different chapters and groups was kind of made me want to do more because I thought there was so much potential in the APAMSA and APA communities for impact. I wanted to take it to the next level so being able to coordinate our efforts on a different level was really exciting for me. I really enjoyed working with all the directors and the project management and also wanted to do impactful things and start new and exciting initiatives. So I think that’s the health affairs role was very exciting and meaningful to me

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far with APAMSA?
I think there are a couple things. The health screening guide that I made my 1st year and expanded in my 2nd year to be a guide that included the how tos on how to do a number of different departments, like how to start your own hep screening, bone marrow donation. It was really cool to see how one thing one person did could grow to something bigger. But also I’m pretty excited and pretty happy with our APAMSA community clinic consortium and that’s something we’re still working to get off the ground. I think we have a very solid vision for what we’d like to see it turn into but to see this type of enthusiasm from APAMSA members across the country for contributing to this mission is very inspiring for me and it makes me really grateful and humble to be working such awesome folks.

If you could hit a reset button on your life, what career would you pursue?
I think that I’ve always had an interest working in the startup space. I think growing up near Silicon Valley and having a lot of friends that work in tech/business I think it’s cool that there’s a lot of room for creativity and opportunities to use technology that don’t exist or are just emerging in new ways to make people’s lives better.

Jane with sister at the MET

What’s a book that you think everyone should read?
Mmm I’ve been meaning to read “When Dark Becomes Air” but I really wanna read it.
So that “everyone” includes yourself?
Haha yeah, I think it gives us a really interesting perspective on life, especially on life ending. I think that in our everyday lives we’re always so busy running around between one thing to another that it’s not often that we stop and smell the roses. So I think if we were to live our entire lives that way, what a waste. I think when we have a perspective like this, it’s really interesting to know like what are the thoughts of the dying and how can we make the most of the lives that we live right now?

Jane not being eaten by a bear

What was the last book you read?
Pestana’s surgery notes?
Ok, for fun. Please don’t say the same answer.
So I started Zero to One, but I haven’t finished it. It’s basically Peter Thiel’s book. It’s really interesting, but I haven’t finished yet, so I’ll let you know when I do.

What’s something that you own that you cherish
Hmmm, so this is rly weird, but you know how some people will twiddle their pens a lot?
Sure?
I end up like just kind of like twirling my eraser around a lot. I don’t know if it’s like a nervous habit but yeah, I like erasing in a certain way to it ends up in a certain shape. I know, it’s kinda weird. Sorry, I’m not very interesting

What can you not live without?
Oranges. I eat like two oranges a day
That’s very healthy
Probably going to get reflux in the future
The future is not now.
Hahaha yeah. I grew up eating oranges, I don’t know why, but my family always ate lots of oranges. My dad like taught me how to pick watermelon and eat oranges so I ate a lot of oranges.
He taught you how to pat watermelons?
Yeah! My dad grew up in the countryside so he taught me how to pat watermelons and pick them. Like if you can feel the vibrations on the other side, it’s a good one.
So the good thing about oranges is I haven’t gotten sick all year, even through peds, so yeah.

There used to be lobster in front of them

What fictional character would you like to spend a day with?
Hmm probably Batman
Why?
I’d like explore his cave and his office and just see how he built everything. It’d be so cool!
Sound like you’ve put some thought into this
Yeah! Like essentially, if you think about this, he like made everything on his own right? So he’s like a normal person with just a bunch load of money that he’s using his resources and built like pools and cars and different gadgets that basically made him into a superhero?
So why batman and not iron man?
Ummmm.. I guess batman came to mind first
Maybe Christian bale is better looking?
Just a little. [Jane has a slight coughing fit]
Uh oh, are you getting sick?
No! Not yet. I haven’t eaten my oranges yet. Yeah I’m telling you, if I don’t eat an orange at least like every other day, I get antsy. I feel like I need some sort of acidic fruit.
...I feel these are the signs of addiction
Uhhh…. Yeah… I guess they have the classical cravings. It is an eye-opener, I did have one this morning to help wake up for my shelf
Mmmhmmm…

Jane didn't tell me who these people are, probably classmates

Do you have any words you’d like to say to the people of APAMSA?
I would encourage people to go out and explore and see what you’re passionate about and try new things [Jane has another slight coughing fit]
Do you need some oranges?
Yeah, and eat a lot of oranges so you won’t get sick on peds. I think sometimes I think that in our culture of medicine we can be very risk averse and I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to continue fwd in the field or to make the biggest impact on people’s lives, so I def encourage ppl to try new things, y’know try and explore in your first few years and even beyond that. Take gap years, do research, don’t think that life is linear, because it’s not.
So, time travel?
Yeah, I figured out the Harry Potter time spinner, so I’m basically Hermione in disguise
Hermione in the real world would definitely go to med school
Actually though. But yeah, I think that there’s sometimes a lot of pushback from our communities to be on a certain path of life, but I don’t think that’s true for any career, though I don’t think that’s necessarily going to benefit y’know the field or the community at large so I just encourage people to keep your mind and eyes open and yeah, go and do great things in the way that you want to.

Thank you, Jane, for taking the time to share your journey with us! You can reach Jane regarding her APAMSA initiatives and ideas at healthaffairs@apamsa.org

People in this article

Jane Wang

healthaffairs@apamsa.org
Hey y'all!
I'm Jane, and I’ll be your Health Affairs Director for this upcoming year! Grew up in the SF/Bay Area, went to undergrad in LA, and now a Baltimore transplant! I’ve had the privilege of serving as your Community Outreach Director for the past 2 years, so I’m pumped to be working with everyone again!

This year in the Health Affairs branch, my aim is to produce new resource materials and link local chapters to progressive technological platforms as they move forward in their outreach endeavors. I also hope to continue providing the same financial support and expertise knowledge on our current key AAPI issues. I’ll be working with each of the directors under the Health Affairs umbrella to enhance the reach and breadth of their projects, but I’m always available to directly interface with anyone who wants to chat about any of these issues.

Robert Fu

Emory University School of Medicine
communications@apamsa.org

Growing up in Atlanta, I was often the only Asian in my grade at school. Maybe the entire school. It was a big school. I actually didn't realize the existence of an Asian American identity until I discovered the internet and Xanga. After starting medical school at Emory, I realized that this lack of awareness wasn't limited to 4th grade elementary students but existed in the industry of healthcare as well. Then somehow I ended up in APAMSA.

As the communications director this year, I aim to promote and market APAMSA's activities and accomplishments in as many ways as possible while maintaining cohesion within the organization. I am always open to new ideas or avenues of operation - feel free to contact me with any ideas or suggestions!