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!

Meeting the National Board: James Ting

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

I sat down with James on a lively Sunday afternoon during his dedicated Step 1 study time. He connected to our call to reveal a backdrop of stuffed animals and kpop posters on the wall. I had a feeling that this was not his room. As we began our conversation, James was open and candid. As we continued, we discussed everything from the engineering jungle of his childhood to his visions for medical policy in the future. Read on to find out more!

[APAMSA] So who are you?
[JAMES] I’m James Ting, a 2nd year at Hopkins, and I’m currently the Advocacy Chair for APAMSA.

What does the Health Advocacy Chair do?
My role encourages and facilitates the participation of medical students to get more involved in the political process. I think it’s super important and it’s under-recognized at this point in many people’s careers. I recently went to a meeting for our state society where we discussed ideas that we thought should be proposed to legislation and I think it’s really important for people to get involved even if it’s just getting informed about how the system works, especially when pertaining to healthcare and places we can provide input for.

What are some of the things you have done in this position?
So thus far I have been working to create a system where we can allow for APAMSA to develop a voice/united stance on specific issues. I think this is important since this organization represents such a large cohort of people. There’s such a diversity of people who can fall into this category. I think it’s important for an organization like APAMSA to create tools to help people get their voices heard. So if we do agree we can make it known that we feel that way. I think it’s important to have a system where we can see what people think and in what ways so we can avoid having people like a board just decide what they think their members think without finding out for real. I think it’s important that leadership have the tools to find that out to empower those who agree with a sentiment.

James at an AMA meeting in Washington DC

What do you do in your study breaks?
If I’m taking like a very short break I’ll watch like League of Legends highlights videos. They’re like 5-10 mins, a good small break. I’ll watch one TSM or CLG video and I’ll be done. If it’s a longer break I like to watch movies or tv shows. Silicon Valley, House of Cards, the occasional kdrama binge, etc.
If they were to make a highlight video of your life, who would you want to play you?
Hmmm, good question. Shoot, who’s the guy who plays the Harold and Kumar guy? He was in Star Trek?
Uhhhh I’m not sure, the moment I look it up I know I’ll realize I knew it all along.
Well I’d pick him, because he’s attractive so I gotta make up for what I don’t have right now
John Cho
Ah John Cho. Yeah, him. There was actually this huge meme thing where they put his face on a lot of movie posters. Did you know that?
No
It was a huge thing, about like Asian American representation in Hollywood.
I’ll check them out then…

James and his family

Tell me about life before med school
I grew up in an engineering family. Both my parents were engineers. For the longest time I figured I was going to go into engineering or be a physics professor or something like that. I went to an engineering high school, an engineering magnet school and so-
Geez where was this?
New jersey is like mad with magnet schools, they’re everywhere, it’s crazy. So I did like research at Princeton, I was like really gung ho about quantum mechanics and then I think I got a little disillusioned with it. I came to the realization that I just wasn’t smart enough, so I was like, okay whatever and went to undergrad thinking I’d do some combo of physics and bio since I felt like that’s a really grounded major and I could combine my interests. After like a year I found myself really favoring the bio/BME side of my interests. It also didn’t hurt that it was my best semester GPA when I started taking BME classes. I changed to be a BME major so I guess I flopped back to being somewhat in engineering.

When did you decide to go to med school?
Med school… hmm med school was sorta slowly warmed up for me. It was an ongoing process. In high school I shadowed and they were really great experiences, which was the only reason I even considered it. So I ended up choosing a college because I wanted to keep broad options open. When I volunteered at a physical rehab center and shadowed a dietitian, I had great experiences talking with patients and learning about their lives. That really helped keep that idea open despite all the engineering that was going on. I was learning about visual aids in nutrition counseling with that and back then I was super mind-blown at how innovative it was. I’m really interested now in bringing new ideas and finding new ways to help people. It got me really excited and this is pretty much where i am now

James's first National APAMSA colleagues

How did you get involved with APAMSA?
While I was at Yale I got involved in the Asian American cultural center because there was a webmaster position. I found the Asian American culture center to be a community I really wanted to be involved in, plus the webmaster position paid $$ so it was like amazing. The next year I became the head coordinator and got to interact with lots of other student organizations and learn about their experiences. Senior year we managed to organize a conference to showcase Asian American research, learn more, and to get involved with the issues. It was around then when I realized that Asian American representation really is inadequate. There was a point where I was like “Wow, I’m going to med school and there’s no way I can affect any change.” But then… wait what were you asking?
Uh, so how did you get involved with APAMSA?
Oh right, so! When I went to med school, I knew I wanted to stay involved with interest groups that represented AAPI med students since that was one of my motivations to get involved with public service. So this was something I wanted to always keep me grounded and rooted. I wanted to keep informed about what issues affect the AAPI population. So I went to the National Conference in Irvine knowing I wanted to be involved somehow. Unfortunately, I didn’t get elected for my 1st choice position… Or my 2nd... But the webmaster position was open so I went for that. Seriously it seems the webmaster position is always the gateway for me to get more involved with organizations. Being a part of the communications team was a great opportunity to see how the groups in APAMSA worked. I had a huge job with the website and how to improve it, of course with your help -
You’re welcome
-but it also allowed me to be a part of all these conversations that let me learn about what APAMSA leadership looks like and what I wanted to see changed. So that really is what inspired one of my goals this year which is to allow for our membership to vote and unify if there is something to unify on. I noticed the leadership was unsure about how to pursue some things because they weren’t sure how our membership felt. It’s something I’m working on now because I want the people we represent to have a voice and I want APAMSA to be able to be utilized as that voice.

James and his region at the 2016 national conference

What’re you most proud of accomplishing with APAMSA so far?
This isn’t from any of my positions, but I’m really proud of creating the AAPI Advocacy Chair position. I’m glad that during the meeting, uh voting conference thing
Election?
….yes, that haha. So at the election there was so much interest we even expanded the position to two people. It was something I had thought of the summer before and really wanted to get involved with. Looking back now I’m really glad it got other people involved because now we have people as passionate about this issue involved and I’m still on the team to help out with the same efforts. So I’m grateful that so many people stepped up to work on what I started as a pet project.

If you weren’t pursuing medicine, what do you think you’d be doing right now?
How about I answer this question instead
Wow you really preparing for politics.
Haha so in college I used to go around saying “if I could live another life knowing that I still have this one to live, there would be 3 things I’d be interested in doing.” One was becoming a military surgeon. I think part of me thinks I’m still an adrenaline junkie and wants to be hands-on. In reading Atul Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto” he talks about a lot of medical innovations that have come from the battlefield. I thought that was really interesting, like at that point something is better than nothing so people have to be creative. The second would be to be a marine biologist. I took a comparative anatomy class and in the lab we dissected salamanders, sharks, [redacted] and I learned a lot. One of my bucket list items is to go to Ecuador and live like Charles Darwin for a few days. The last one is to be a League of Legends coach. I don’t play many video games, League is probably the one I play the most. I think it’s super interesting because it’s like an elaborate game of chess that has more moving parts. It’s all artificial and that’s what’s so amazing to me. It’s not like football or soccer where there are actually physical limitations to what can or cannot be done. In League one thing could be changed and there’s all these mechanics and synergy that you can get super creative with and think strategically about and it’s super fascinating to me. I sense like a Hail Mary email to the Cloud9 sales team saying I’d be happy to work with their analyst team, but I’m bronze 2 so (background laughter is heard) I’m not very good at this game.

James after running a long distance for fun

What do you think is the biggest problem with healthcare in general today?
This may or may not be a trap for my future political career
It is.
Haha. To me it’s something that’s become very prominent in news today, which is how we pay for healthcare. It’s something that I don’t have enough knowledge on so I’m still learning a lot about it. I think some people come to the issue with a solution in mind and approach the issue looking for evidence to support it so I want to learn more about it first. Like I think there are some tenants that should be followed, like that everyone should be covered and anything that removes coverage from people should be steered away from. There are some things that I have been involved with or seen that I feel have been going in the wrong direction, but I don’t feel like I have an answer as to what ultimately is the right solution. The nuance is the focus of what I think is significant.

What’s a first world problem you’re dealing with at the moment?
I’m not been able to get 9 hrs of sleep every night and that’s what I need. I don’t know what the problem is, maybe I have sleep apnea and should get that checked out, but yeah that’s the problem.
Uh huh
Somehow step 1 has been helpful for that since I can control my schedule with study, break, and sleep times to make sure I get it. BUT if I have to adjust it and I get 8 hrs of sleep one night I actually feel terrible the next day so.. It happens. Idk how i’m going to survive surgery.
You won’t really have a choice
That’s fair

James playing the bass

What do you do to de-stress?
I used to really enjoy practicing kendo, but I haven’t been able to do that recently. My practice partners and I have been getting busy and some injuries got in the way. It’s a huge destresser because you’re in there and you’re just yelling and sweating and you get physically exhausted and it’s great.

Have you ever cried in a movie?
Yes, I have cried a lot and in a lot of movies
Which one do you think made you cry the most?
Oh, the movie “3 Idiots” made me cry the absolute most. Initially I was thinking Big Hero 6, and I’ve cried in a lot of movies, like Pixar movies, Disney movies, but I cried like two times in that one. Y’know because in most movies they climax and that’s where you cry cuz you’re like, omg this is what the entire movie was leading up to. But that movie made me cry in like two different instances within 3 hours
That’s a really long movie
Yeah it was like a fake bollywood movie, like a pseudo one because it makes fun of bollywood tropes but yeah it was really good, I’ve watched it like 3 times now
That’s like 9 hrs of your life
But it was worth it dude

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I have a tattoo of 3 EKG beats on my side. Primarily because I shadowed a family friend in cardiology and it really contributed to me going into medicine and 3 is my lucky number.

James waving a flag around

When do you feel the most creative?
Probably when I’m taking a shower or the 5 mins before i go to bed.
Any memorable accomplishments in those 2 times?
[literal 45 second pause]...no.
…….
I don’t know, these are always small things, like… I don’t know, an acronym for something I come up with or maybe a present I’m trying to get someone for Christmas it’ll usually come then, or something. Yeah.

If you could steal credit for any song/film/book, which one would you claim?
I’m gonna say… The Giver. I really liked it growing up. Another one of my life aspirations is to write a sci fi novel and I think the giver really sparked my interest in sci fi. And it’s not like it’s your typical sci fi novel so it’s really interesting. Also I actually read it twice when I was in middle school and that’s like the book every 6th grade had to read, so if everyone has to read it then everyone’s going to know your book so I’d claim that.

Local APAMSA hang out

If you could have anyone in the world make you dinner, who would it be?
I’m generally not very picky for my food, so this summer I ate at 3-
You and the number 3 again
Haha this one’s just a coincidence, but there’s a list of top 50 restaurants in the world and it’s not the one by Michelin, there’s like another one, like 50toprestaurants.com or something, it’s legit despite its name
Not gonna say anything
Haha anyway 3 of them were in Lima where I was at this summer, so I went to all of them. It was really fun eating at them because there were a lot of courses and each one is basically a piece of artwork. It was just fun to see it and take photos of it so I don’t know who but… oh, Jiro, Jiro is the one i’d want, that guy. The dreams of sushi guy, because it’s a similar multiple course thing. That movie is pretty cool, that guy’s gone through decades of training and he’d have a lot to say

Anything you would like to say to our members and readers?
I feel like at every major milestone in my life I’ve experienced uncertainty. But looking back to like when I was 15 keeps me grounded with how far I’ve come. Back then, I think I had pretty low expectations about what I would do in life. I still feel like that sometimes, but I think I’m now going in a direction where I’ve accomplished things that I’m proud of. I think me as a 15 year old would be astonished to know. So yeah, what I would say is that if you’ve gotten to this point, don’t feel like you need to go change your expectations - something is already working. It might not feel like it’s working, but something’s there so keep at it.

Thank you, James, for spending some of your rare Step 1 break time to talk with us! To get in touch with James and learn more about Advocacy at APAMSA, get in touch with him at advocacy@apamsa.org

Meeting the National Board: Samantha Wu

BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
communications@apamsa.org
With over 4000 members in more than 80 chapters, keeping tabs on APAMSA’s membership is a tough task. Samantha Wu, one of our National Membership Directors, has the job of starting and maintaining those relationships with the chapters. Sitting down with Samantha [on the internet], she recounted her experiences from blindly joining APAMSA, revitalizing her local chapter, and taking on a national role in the organization. But what she recounts most fondly was her campaign for turtle liberation.

Introduce us to yourself, what is your position in APAMSA?
"My name is Samantha Wu, I’m a 4th year med student at Michigan State University College of  Human Medicine and I am National APAMSA’s co-membership director."

What does the co-membership director do exactly?
"There’s two of us, I’m more in charge of new chapters, chapters that re-initiate, and I keep track of all the current chapters and their statuses"

What do you think is the hardest part of your position?
"We’re all busy med students, so it’s really difficult at times to keep in touch with people. That’s why there is a membership director role to begin with. We try to make sure chapters stay active and are active in their communities and we try to make sure that they know they have support here and that we’re here for if they need help for whatever. New chapters in particular sometimes have a hard time getting the ball rolling if they don’t have a foundation set yet, so we try to help get them set up and going. Since all of this is via telecommunication, I haven’t met most of them in person so I’m talking with them on video conference or telephone, but mostly email. It’s very easy for them to focus on school and other things and fall out of touch with us and it’s kind of difficult to maintain constant communication."

In your free time, what kind of media do you like to consume?
"That’s tough, probably depends on my mood. I’m a big fan of Pandora and dancing in the room. I probably have Pandora on at every free moment possible. Getting up, showering, breakfast, etc. The stations vary vastly as well. So… music."

The author of Samantha's song

In that case, if someone were to write a song about you, who would you want to write it?  
"Probably my mom? Only because she knows me, so she could actually write from the heart."
In what style?
"Hmmm probably like a country love song."
So your mom as early Taylor Swift?
"Only the early one, not the current one. Not that I don’t like the current one."

Tell me about your life before med school.
"I was actually pre-law at Cornell. I did a pre-health post bac and did some post grad science work before medical school. I didn’t know what kind of healthcare I wanted to go into, so I actually worked in an optometrist's office and as an orthodontist's assistant at some point as well. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a dentist or optometrist or something. I eventually decided on medicine because I liked the option of doing other things instead of just eyes and teeth."

What inspired you to go into healthcare?
"I always wanted to serve under-served populations and I thought pre-law would be the best way to do it. I actually studied Asian studies and “law and society” thinking I would focus on immigration law and I studied urban planning in the architecture school, which is very under-served focused.  I thought putting them together would work towards the same goal as helping people in need and the under-served so I thought it was a good course of study. But then I realized I wanted to help people in a way that’s like really necessary. Not that a lawyer doesn’t, but like in a way that I could help literally any person anywhere"
In what way was that?
"Like, life and death is essential to the human experience and I wanted to be a part of that so I thought that a better way to help people would be medicine. Also I really like science, like I realized I didn’t want to read and write all day long, and I find science really interesting so I wanted to learn more about that"

What are some hobbies of yours? Besides medicine.
"I do ski-patrol here at school. We’re the ones who wear the red and yellow jackets that monitor the ski slopes and stuff. It’s quite cold and long winters in northern Michigan so I’ve taken great joy in outdoor snow activities in my free time."
Did you start doing those things when you went to Michigan?
"I used to snowboard a ton before med school. Not skiing though, I did a little bit of skiing as a kid but I’ve done it a lot more now here."

Samantha in a cold place

How did you choose the medical school you went to?
"Throughout college and my time between, I really wanted to focus on helping the under-served. One of the great things about Michigan State is it’s a community based med school"
What does that mean, a “community based” med school?
"So basically the medical school was built to make doctors who would work in various communities. Michigan as a state is really diverse. You’ve got areas like Detroit, a huge metropolitan city, and Flint, which you know has the water crisis, or you can drive 8 hrs north and get to the upper peninsula which is very rural, so there’s just vastly different types of medicine right there just looking at the populations. Michigan State has 7 campuses all over the state.  So 3rd and 4th year we pick which campus we want to learn from and they’re very focused on serving their populations."

Is that idea in general what attracted you to these types of programs?
"Yeah Michigan State wasn’t the only one that was focused on the under-served and community based. There was basically a set of schools that matched these focuses. I really like the environment and attitude of Michigan State so it was everything I wanted in one place which is why I chose it."

How did you get involved with APAMSA?
"So my big sib when I just started at MSU- "
Big sib?
"We have big sibs, like a mentoring program, a second year that they match you with based on your interests. She had just restarted APAMSA at Michigan State. The national conference, which was maybe 3 weeks after school started, was an hour away at University of Michigan. So she was like “join APAMSA” and I was like ok, and then she was like “come with us to this National Conference thing” so I was like yeah I’ll come. So we were sitting there at the conference and nobody was running for regional director of our Midwest region so she nudges me and is like “Sami, do it!” Basically I was peer pressured into running for it so I became a regional director.

I also eventually became president of the local chapter of APAMSA and that was great. I felt like I was able to get people who I don’t think would’ve gotten involved in APAMSA to start participating. That was a great experience. It’s just fun. Especially since at Michigan a lot of the people who were interested in international health were not from Michigan. So a lot of people who were from Michigan who hadn’t had much exposure to these issues have gotten to learn a lot, which was really cool for me. I came from California and went to Cornell and then came to Michigan, where there's not a large population. Like I don’t think people knew here that hep b was a big deal with Asian patients compared to like in California I think most people know that, so it was good to get even a couple people who didn’t know that before informed about something new."

Samantha with a flip phone

How did you end up being on national board?
"It was cool seeing the organization grow throughout the years so I wanted to try something different and find out more about the avenues of it so I chose to be sponsorship director. I had done a lot of fundraising throughout my volunteer experiences through the past, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to contribute to APAMSA. This year, I decided to be membership director specifically because it was going to be my last year and I thought it would be nice to get people involved in APAMSA before I left. I would be able to interact with people all over the nation and I would get the full, broad taste of APAMSA from everywhere. It was fun going out to regional conferences and meeting people throughout the country, compared to my first two years which was mostly with people in the midwest, and it was nice this year to go to new York and meet more people and branch out my APAMSA network."

In all your time on APAMSA, what are you most proud of accomplishing?
"Thinking back, I’ve watched this organization grow so much in these past years. I’m really proud of its progress and I’m proud to be part of that. I mean it’s so official now, so professional, we do such good work, and to see great leaders that have come and grown to help build this organization really is amazing to watch and I’m really lucky to be part of it. It’s crazy to see how much we’ve grown. Like the website - thinking about the website from back in the day and then looking at it now, it’s awesome now. Not that it wasn’t awesome before, but it’s so professional now, I think we’ve done such a great job. Y’know as membership director I get contacted by people who are from medical schools I hadn’t heard of and they want to join APAMSA because they went on our website and they read what we’re all about and want to join. All through our website! It’s pretty cool. It’s also really cool that it’s run by medical students that don’t have time."
When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like much of a selling point
"Haha you have to remember that we’re not professionals yet and it’s a very large organization and if you look at what all these chapters do across the nation it’s amazing work. So many community events and health fairs and stuff. Lots of stuff that help communities all over the place. So I’ve been proud to be a part of it."

What do you think is the most pressing APA issue?
"This is not just an apa issue, more of a national one, but that we're made up of so many groups of people yet our health care guidelines are not population specific. I think the biggest issue is not having enough resources or guidelines for the APA population. Like, Screen at 22 is a perfect example (diabetes). How many people do you think were missed because normal bmi for an Asian person might be different for a non-asian person? I think we need, globally, to have more specific health care research for specific populations. People like APAMSA who do work for the specific population can be one of the ones who lead this kind of effort."

Samantha with a green.... thing

What is your vision for national APAMSA?
"I want to see it grow. I want to see more stability – a lot of it has to do with having individuals who are passionate about continuing it. We need to keep people actively participating and passionate about these issues. I think it starts with letting people know and keeping them involved on issues that can be worked on. Maybe since I’m membership director I see chapters coming in and fading out during the year. The problem is, if people don’t know there’s an issue to address, it’s hard to draw them in to participate and keep them wanting to help. Every chapter has their own unique identity, so it’s hard to require everyone to do things to keep them involved, so it’s hard to keep everyone active and involved in their own ways."

If someone asks you to tell a fun story about your life, what story do you default to?
"So at the local china town near me growing up they would sell turtles for people to use in like turtle soup. So I would go Chinatown and buy these turtles for like 5 bucks and go to Stone Lake in Golden Gate Park and release them. I used to also buy the fish and release them but I’m pretty sure we were just feeding the other fish. We did that until at some point they didn’t let you take the turtles live probably because they realized people were keeping them as pets so I couldn’t do it anymore."
Maybe it was because they weren’t licensed to sell pets?
"Maybe? But I was thinking maybe I wasn’t the only one that’s releasing them into the wild. I could’ve changed the ecosystem in Golden Gate Park maybe haha. Because we probably released at least like 20, maybe more. We used to do it a lot. I still remember doing that as a kid. Err not just as a kid, I did it for a long time. Until they didn’t allow us to anymore."

If you could go far back and redo anything but medicine, what would you be?
"I probably would’ve been a teacher. Like, I feel like medicine is teaching, which is why I want to do it. Every patient you have, you teach them so much about whatever is going on. A lot of people don’t know what’s happening physiologically with them with what they’re coming in with so I feel like we’re always teaching everyday so that’s probably why I chose that."

A penguin walks into your room right now wearing a sombrero, what does he say and why is he there?
"He says “it’s nice to see you again, I missed you” because that’s totally a friend I would have to hang out with."
That was an incredibly decisive and much more coherent response than I was expecting.
"No really! I love penguins and I love fiestas, I’m pretty sure he’d be a friend of mine."

What do you do to de-stress?
"Play the piano. I have a baby grand piano in my living room that I like to play."
Wow that’s hardcore
"I actually hated lessons growing up. I only took them because my mother forced me to because she liked hearing it. I am so very grateful that I know how to play now because it’s probably the best stress relief I’ve had in med school."

What’s something you’ve done that only you would find amusing?
"That’s a lot of things haha.
I have a little goose friend lives on the beach. There’s this one beach I always go to that’s right by my school. I go run there, eat lunch there, watch the sunset there and I would see this goose there sometimes. I haven’t seen him there probably for about a year and he showed up again the other day and I couldn’t believe he was there! That’s why I took a picture (below) I found that really amusing."

Goose 2016
Goose 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?
"I ummm I don’t think I’d give myself any advice. You know, I think I am the person I am today because of all the good and bad experiences I’ve had. I’m happy where I am and I think you grow and learn lessons from the mistakes you make in the past. I wouldn’t want to not make the mistakes I made because I might not be who I am today."

If you could steal credit for any song/film/book, which one would you claim?
"Ender’s Game. I want credit for Ender’s Game."
Why?
"It’s genius, it’s a genius book. I think it’s full of good ideas, great entertainment, and there’s huge character development like there’s a lot of characters in it in such a short amount of time. I read it when I was younger and I don’t think I realized or understand the empathy until I got older and read it again. Like, when I was young it was just a cool book, but when I read it again there was so much deeper and more intense than I had seen when I was younger. I love all those books in that series."

Do you have anything to say to the members/readers of APAMSA
"I would just want to thank everyone for all their hard work and for making this organization so great. It’s not an individual thing, it’s a collective collaborative effort of all our hard work. We all do our parts and it’s great to see what we can accomplish together. Honestly, it’s crazy to see such a large org being run by so few people at the national level. Its pretty amazing. We have such great leaders who are inspired and passionate to make a difference really doing a good job and really keeping this train going."

Thank you, Samantha, for taking the time to share your story with us! You can reach Samantha regarding her APAMSA responsibilities at membership@apamsa.org

Meeting the National Board: Jiyoon (Junne) Park

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

National APAMSA’s core mission is to provide support for our member’s efforts and activities. Some of the ways we do this is by providing educational resources, connecting our members with partners, or with money. Do you ever wonder where that money comes from? To find that out, I asked one of our sponsorship directors about her entire life.

Introduce yourself, what is your role in APAMSA?
I’m Junne Park. Well, Jiyoon Park, but I go by Junne. I am a national sponsorship director and I was the 2016-2017 co-president of the Medical College of Wisconsin APAMSA chapter.

As national sponsorship chair, what do you do?
My biggest job is to attract sponsors and donors to give to APAMSA and support our conferences and activities. I develop relationships with organizations and I also draft contracts and deals with them so we can help support our members in ways like offers, discounts, grants, etc.

Said lawyer friend

If this interview was a documentary, who do you think should narrate it?
Hmmmm so I have a friend from highschool that I’m still very close to. We’re entirely different – I’m a medical student and she’s a law student. When we get into problems, hard times, or just discouraged, we talk to each other and it’s nice that we’re both students but we study different things. I have other friends who are working and making money (sad laugh) and they actually enjoy their time on vacation instead of using it to study (sadder laugh) for step or a bar exam. Talking with her gives a different perspective of some of the hardships from someone being a student. We’ve also known each other for a really long time so we know how each other thinks, each other’s personality, etc. I think she would be a really great narrator for me because I sometimes have trouble expressing my emotions and thoughts, but she gets some of the complexities in my head that I can’t express to others.
So basically, when you say something, she could read between the lines and tell us what you REALLY think.
Exactly. Especially since I’m not a great orator and have some trouble expressing my thoughts and logic, or maybe she’s just really good at it since she’s going to be a lawyer and that’s what she does for a living. So yeah, I think she’d be a great narrator for me.

Tell me about life before med school.
I grew up in California and went to high school there. My high school was very unique in the sense that the student body population was 75% Asian Americans. The environment was on the competitive side and that’s honestly why I wanted to get out of California for college. I realized I lived in a bubble with majority being Asian so diversity for me was not the same as for most. I really wanted to get out of my bubble, so that’s why I ended up going to University of Rochester. Honestly, that’s where I think I grew the most. That’s the first time I experienced discrimination and it was the first time I experienced what it was like being a minority. And not just as an Asian American, but also as a Korean American. That really changed me. In Asian culture, you know, parents are very giving when it comes to education. Here I realized the different environments people grew up in and the things people sacrificed for their education. It really opened my eyes to what people have to sacrifice for an education or what they really want to do in life.

example of Junne's crafts

What got you through the week in college?
I think what got me through the week were the people around me. No matter where I’ve gone, I’ve made a few really good friends. I find comfort in really getting to know someone and spending a lot of 1 to 1 time with them. So every week me and my friends would choose a day and do whatever – like go out to eat or hang out. If it wasn’t for them it would have been a lot harder to get through the week. Also art, rock climbing, tennis, and like crafts in general. Like painting!

When and how did you know you wanted to go into medicine?
I knew since I was younger, like very young, that I wanted to be a doctor. Part of that was my mom, who wanted to be a doctor since she was young. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to be one and became a nutritionist. When she had me, she had to quit her job so ever since I was young she always put that little thing in my head like, “hey how about being a doctor?”. I realized I wanted to pursue medicine when I shadowed an oncologist in Rochester and saw the way she interacted with patients. Like, when she saw patients, they always had a smile. Like, her patients have cancer, but they smiled when they saw her. They made it seem like they were her family members and she really put in the passion and the work. When I talked with them, they would go on and on about how great she is and how much she helped their families. It made me really want to be like her, to be that person for a patient. Not only as someone to give medical advice, but to help them get through hard times – more than just a doctor. So that’s why I want to pursue medicine.
So you’ve known since forever
Haha, even as far back as 7th grade biology I had this teacher, who was a medical student turned science teacher, who made us memorize stuff like bones of the body, the physiology of the ear, etc. His class was by far my favorite class in middle school and I think it got me started and I just kept going from there. All my experiences in the medical field or academics in that area were very positive so I kept going.

Junne's family

How did you choose the medical school you ended up going to?
So it was down to MCW and the east coast. You know how they say Wisconsinites are nice? They really are. [editor’s note: editor is from Wisconsin, just fyi] So when I had the interview, everyone was really supportive. The M3s and others were all very supportive and happy, like in a happy to be there way. Like as happy as they could be as medical students. I had good conversations with all the people there and even got invited to go ice-skating afterwards. I couldn’t go, but I had a really positive experience, especially considering I was stressed out of my mind. It was a stark contrast to the other schools I interviewed at and left a really warm impression. It came down to that feeling against geography and I picked MCW.

What do you wish you had known before starting medical school?
To have fun. I wish I knew to actually have fun during my free time. Like, after first year summer it just doesn’t stop after that. There’s always something to do. I get anxious when I’m not doing anything, so I wish I had slowed down and really appreciated actual free time and kept in touch with my friends and family better.

MCW APAMSA

How did you get involved with APAMSA?
You know how I said earlier that I grew up in an Asian majority area? So when people talked about Asian minority issues, I really couldn’t relate. The idea that we don’t talk about mental health and stuff like that… yeah it’s true, I grew up not really thinking about that since nobody thought about that. I just got into the mode that was like “well, that’s just how life really is” and my move to Rochester was a significant part of life since it showed me a lot of the norms I grew up with were not normal everywhere else. It was really eye-opening and really showed me some of the unique difficulties that Asian communities really have. So when I got to MCW, there was an organization fair on the first day and I just signed up for everything.
So you’re in APAMSA because you signed up for everything on the first day?
Well I joined APAMSA because their table was like “join! Join!” and they were trying to recruit all the Asian Americans hahaha.
Sounds about right.
So I signed up and on the first week of school, that Friday, we had a giant welcome dinner at Dr. Li’s house, our advisor. Like, everyone comes, not just M1s and M2s, and it’s a really big deal. The current officers make a meal for everyone and we just mingle and hang out. It was great to see and talk and get to know people and that’s how I started off. In all that excitement, and because I was a gunner M1, I applied to be the M1 liaison. As the liaison, I went to a lot of the activities and got the feeling that this was something I really wanted to be more involved with. Then there was a regional conference, which was conveniently in Chicago and right after an exam, and it was really great. Kevin (National APAMSA president at the time) actually spoke at the regional conference and, you know Kevin very well, right? He’s really passionate about how like APAMSA is going to be the greatest organization on earth and how like doing community service is so great blabla bla and how it changes the world. It actually sorta got to me, honestly it really got to me, and that’s how it began and how I got more and more involved with APAMSA.
He guilts plenty of people into national participation
Yeah, he guilted you too, right?
Yep. So how did that turn into a national role?
After the regional conference I became the co-president of our chapter. The national conference was also in Chicago, which made it really easy to go. I applied to be regional director and the national position but ended up with the national position.

What made you want to be a sponsorship director?
I wanted to do sponsorship because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do yet. I knew from working as co-president that the people working with the money get their fingers in everything, so I picked sponsorship because they interact with a lot of people in the organization.

Local APAMSA volunteering

What are you most proud of accomplishing in APAMSA so far?
This is really weird, but I’m most proud of the sponsorship package I took point on creating this year. When I started on national board, I felt the biggest problem I had was that I just didn’t know what to do. I had a vague sense of what I had to do, but I was really lost with who I had to contact, who we already contacted, what we already did, what we didn’t do, and I think the sponsorship package was actually the first step in creating some kind of organization in the sponsorship branch. I think it will make it a lot easier next year for the new directors for when they get started they’ll know what they have to do.
So what was the biggest challenge for you putting this packet together?
I think it’s like a mix of communication and … actually it’s just communication actually. Like, I’m in Wisconsin, a lot of people are on either coast, and it’s just easy for people to do things their own way and find sponsors in their own communities and figure stuff out for themselves without having to wait for someone else to okay it. One of the biggest problems we had was people not knowing who was in charge of what. I think we’re getting to a point where people are in agreement about what our approach to sponsors are, and I think that’s very important. We’re avoiding multiple people within the organization going to the same sponsors, which I thought made us look disorganized. Now it looks more like we have a system down and makes us feel more professional.

What is your vision for national APAMSA?
My vision for APAMSA is for it to become an organization where it’s not just focused on a single community, but on the Asian American community as a whole. To talk to others and bring in other opinions and even get through cultural barriers is important. I know there are real differences between those communities, but there are so many shared experiences and things we could learn from one another.

At the 2017 Region VI Conference

What do you think the most pressing APA health issue?
I think the most pressing apa health issue is the lack of communication between different generations and different Asian American communities. Like, for example, different generations have different thoughts on eastern vs western medicine. I wish there was more communication between the two. Like depression I think the younger generation has a better grasp on, but it’s not something that’s limited to the younger generation. I had a friend who’s a 3rd year and he was talking about this older Asian American gentleman who wasn’t taking his medicine even though he knew all the benefits and would rather drink ginseng tea instead. I think instead of us as a doctor going to speak to them, it’s better if a family member talks to them because they’re more likely to look to family members than doctors, unfortunately. If we keep dividing our resources and efforts to individual, communities it will reach less people than if we look to the Asian American community as a whole.

More broadly, what do you think is the biggest problem with healthcare today?
So I think healthcare is a human right, but I think the biggest issue is figuring out how to give people this right in the most fair and economically feasible way. I don’t know if that makes sense, it’s a very broad idea, but I’ll leave it at that.

So if you weren’t pursuing medicine, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would probably be doing something with health policy. I’m very interested in stuff like population health, like how certain laws, ideas, or economies change how people receive or take or not take healthcare. It’s really interesting because even the smallest of things that people don’t think are related to healthcare, actually are. For example, the budget on agriculture or sugar or the EPA all influence health in one way or another. It’s really interesting to see the connections, even if they’re vague in some ways and vary in significance.

At Milwaukee China Lights festival

What’s the last book you read?
Hmmm it’s been a while, I think it’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Oh, they’re making a tv show for that right?
Yeah! I wanna see it so bad. I love books like that, like 1984, brave new heart
Brave new world?
Oh, yeah brave new world haha sorry. Cuckoo’s nest, just like I love the utopia books an-
You mean dystopia?
Ahaha yeah, whoops.
I mean, it’s ok if you feel those are your ideas of utopias…
It makes me feel like a depressing person liking these books, but you can really learn a lot from them.

What book would you recommend everyone read?
Ok I’ll do a fun one since all my favorites were depressing. I’d recommend The Martian. Especially if you like science and stuff, it’s a really great book. I like how it blends science and fiction. Lots of people think of science as some abstract, intangible thing, but in this book it makes it seem more grounded and I enjoyed that about this book.

What’s a first world problem you’re dealing with?
The balance of time needed to go to the grocery store and studying. I haven’t gone to the grocery store in like 2 weeks and I’m like out of food but I have to study. I’m sitting here thinking if I can last another day without going to the grocery store. I’m like living off of freeze-dried food right now.
You’re really taking that Martian stuff to heart
Well a lot of the Asian food available here is freeze dried, so it’s like that kind of stuff.

What tv shows are you watching?
I’m too busy to watch tv shows, but I’m a dedicated viewer of buzzfeed’s “worth it” videos. It’s like two guys going to restaurants at different price points and picking what they think is most worth it. I’m dedicated to it, they’re 10 minute videos, and I watch on 2x speed.
Like lectures
I can’t watch videos in regular speed anymore.

example of "friends"

What can you not live without?
Sunlight
........ ok
Family, friends, food, etc. But seriously, sunlight! Once I spent one weekend with the blinds closed, just locked myself in to study and I just went crazy.
I mean, you could have opened the blinds?
I could have… but it was a cloudy day anyway, it was one of those horrible days in Wisconsin where it was just not good to go outside and you just stay inside. So I just didn’t leave the house for the whole weekend and I realized I just couldn’t do it again. So now I study in the library by a window.

 

If you could choose anyone in the world to make you dinner, who would it be?
Anyone in the world? My mom.
Awwww, what would she make?
So in korea there’s this dish with thinly sliced radishes and arranged around it like the sun there’s thinly sliced egg, cucumber, carrots, and beef. You put it in a wrap and eat it. So whenever I come home she always makes it for me. I’ll send you a picture [insert picture here] . Everytime she comes home she makes that, a soup that I really like, and she always makes Korean barbeque. And homemade kbbq is better than the restaurant stuff and it’s like a gathering for my family so it’s like an event. All these little things make it that.

the dish mentioned above

What would you like to tell the members of APAMSA?
I would tell them, no matter what you’re doing, it doesn’t even have to be apamsa stuff, just be proud of what you’re doing, what you have done, and what you’ve accomplished, because even though it might not seem much to you, like checking bp for a few people, it’s a lot to them. What you’re doing really is making a difference.

Thank you, Junne, for taking the time to talk with us! If you have any ideas or want to talk sponsorship, you can get in touch with her at sponsorship@apamsa.org

Member Highlight: Kevin Chang, University of Illinois at Chicago

Kevin Chang
University of Illinois at Chicago APAMSA Chapter President

How did you learn about APAMSA?

I learned about APAMSA during the student organization fair at the beginning of the school year.

What made you want to get involved in APAMSA?

One of the reasons I wanted to get involved with APAMSA was because I desired to work as a team with my fellow medical students to help the parts of the API community which are medically underserved. In addition to this, I wished to gain experience and learn more about the specific health issues which the API community faces.

Kevin Chang

What has been your favorite APAMSA-related activity and why?

My favorite APAMSA-related activity so far has been the Chinatown health fair in Chicago. Through this event, I was able to help serve a community in need while at the same time learning and practicing my clinical skills. This experience gave me a greater understanding of the health issues and needs which those in the local API community face.

What APIA health issues do you see within your community?

I believe one of the major health issues within these communities is access to adequate healthcare. Many individuals still remain uninsured and unable to obtain basic medical treatment. Even among those who do have access, obstacles still remain such as language barriers, lack of acceptance of western medicine, non-adherence, and high costs. While there is no simple solution to these problems, I believe that increased amounts of culturally sensitive health education could improve long term health outcomes in these communities.

How does your involvement with APAMSA help you with your future medical career?

I believe my involvement with APAMSA helps give me further experience with minority health – experience which I feel is becoming increasingly necessary in today’s evolving multicultural society. In addition to this, I feel that through serving as president on my chapter’s APAMSA board, I can gain important skills in leadership, planning, and networking, while at the same time helping those in need in the API community.