BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -
- so yeah that was a really fun way to like experience a more creative side of life.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
What fictional character would you like to spend a day with?
Hmm probably Batman
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
People in this article
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.
Emory University School of Medicine
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!