Personal: background, where were you born, raised, education? please tell us how you got to where you are now…
Born: New York City;
Background grew up in NY, Maryland, Connecticut, North Carolina, Nebraska, attended boarding school in Massachusetts at Andover, undergraduate at Cornell (Biology and Biometry/Statistics major), spent two years in AmeriCorps Health Corps after college in Jacksonville, FL (first year doing patient assistance at a federally qualified health care clinic helping patients obtain free medications via patient assistance programs, obtain department health clinic cards; second year finding resources for clients at a methadone treatment clinic), did a Masters of Biomedical Sciences at University of Toledo in Ohio for 1 year, then medical school at Tulane University, and now currently a first year Internal Medicine resident at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.
What inspired you to choose healthcare as a profession?
Overall, I had always had an interest in health care because of the mindset of being a practicing physician in that as physician there is always the mindset to try to benefit the patient compared to other fields that I had considered where sometimes there is a conflict of interest or you are trying to defend against what you personally believe in. But two experiences stand out in my decision to pursue healthcare as a profession. My first experience was in college when I participated in OB/GYN research for two summers as part of the NIH Summer Intramural research program; I got a chance to see first hand the interaction between physicians during daily rounds and more importantly I enjoyed the excitement of coming to the pathology lab each morning trying to see if the work I would put together could generate exciting findings. The other experience was my two years serving the AmeriCorps National Health Corps after graduating from college. I made this decision because I wanted to get out of the “education bubble” and before making a full commitment to medicine, I wanted to be part of a day to day operations at a clinic, and I got this and a lot more by having the opportunity to be a part of a clinic team at a health care clinic. In this experience, I got a chance to work with a lot of patients with difficult socioeconomic backgrounds and saw first hand some of the barriers that they dealt with from transportation to difficulties with making lifestyle changes due to living in a food desert and not having an accessible gyms. I was part of a team and enjoyed the teamwork aspect of communicating with the physician, nurses, front desk office, nutritionist, and finance officer. Most importantly, I felt excited coming to the clinic everyday and envisioned myself wanting to be a physician leader in a clinic like that someday and this affirmed my decision to go to medical school and beyond.
Please tell us about your experiences at Tulane University–School of Medicine
My experience at Tulane was very rewarding; I chose Tulane because of its very diverse community and the charm of New Orleans but most importantly because of the school’s commitment to interacting with its community. At Tulane, I really focused on being involved with the local APAMSA chapter in order to outreach with the Vietnamese population. As a group, we did Hep B screenings in the West Bank and NOLA East near supermarkets and churches. We would do Hep B education out at the Tet festival and do a Sushi Fundraiser to help generate funds for Hep B screenings and education. Also, given our unique outreach to the community, I had a chance to participate in multiple student-run clinics; I did a couple of primary care community clinics, participated in a TB clinic, and also volunteered at a women’s clinic downtown. During my rotations, I really enjoyed getting to know the patients, and still miss getting a chance after rounds to hang out and learn about the patients on a personal level. And of course, having the chance to live in New Orleans, it was a special place for me in getting a chance to learn about a unique city; of course there is Mardi Gras every year (which I missed not getting to go to for the first time this year) and the French Quarter but places such as uptown there are many local shops, there are endless options of food that go beyond the jambalyaya, beignets, and crawfish that every person in New Orleans has to try, and most especially the people who I found to be the most down to earth and real people that I’ve met in the many cities I’ve lived and visited in.
Where and how did you learn about APAMSA?
I learned about APAMSA via an e-mail I received my second week of med school about students who might be interested in attending the 2012 National Conference in Michigan from the local chapter president at the time. Since at the time I knew nothing about APAMSA, I wrote, “I might be interested in going on the trip.” I got a response from the local chapter president telling me to book my flight and that I was going to the conference without any further questions. Our local chapter hadn’t had an event beyond the club fair yet at the time of the National Conference, I was pretty blown away and felt pretty overwhelmed at my first national conference seeing the extent of the work these physicians and other health professionals had done towards API health. It was quite a chance encounter for me to join APAMSA since I didn’t do an organization like this before so it showed me that sometimes the best opportunities you get are the ones that come very spontaneously!
What positions in APAMSA did you hold? (school, regional, or national level)
Local Chapter Co-President
National Pre-Med Director
National Membership Vice President
National Vice President
How did these positions impacted your education in medical school and how did it impact your professional growth?
I think that my involvement in APAMSA enhanced my education in medical school because it brought some perspective to what I was learning in medical school. The major issues and topics that we discussed in APAMSA whether it was Hepatitis via my local chapter’s health screening or one of the hepatitis leaders giving a speech at the National Hepatitis conference or participating in a workshop on mental health at the regional conference or discussing the merits of expanding on health advocacy at our National Board Meeting, would often give me a big picture on some of the issues that I feel that as a future physician I would face in the context of what I was learning in my classes and rotations. In terms of my professional growth, I think that my role in APAMSA has allowed me to become a more well rounded medical professional in thinking beyond the issues at the hospital such as thinking about the big pictures in some of the health disparities we face and be mindful of some of our most important initiatives in advocacy whether it is mental health or health care access. Most importantly, these positions really taught me to develop leadership skills. I had previously been on leadership roles in organizations but I hadn’t been put in a position where I had to learn to manage groups of people, to develop public speaking and networking skills so that I could represent the national organization at APAMSA events and conference calls, and to handle difficult situations where I was the one looked to make the decisions. Physicians are required to be leaders in some shape or form whether it’s running an inpatient team, leading a professional society or being a community leader and I will always look back towards my positions in APAMSA as the foundation of these leadership skills.
How would you like to see APAMSA grow in the future?
First off, I want to commend the people that have led APAMSA over the years in what they have done. I am grateful for Dr. B. Li and Dr. Jhemon Lee for having the initiative to put together a unique organization over 20 years ago that focuses on API health issues that did not exist before. I have been honored to be a part of what we have built over the past five years in terms of creating new important initiatives such as mental health, expanding on our major initiatives namely hepatitis, and seeing new chapters all over the country be founded. Our organization has also gone through major structural changes that while sound mundane required a lot of hard work from numerous board members and I am proud to see where it is today with our current leadership structure, our database which we nearly started from scratch that now has over 4,000+ members and re-structuring our regions to improve the quality of our inter-chapter relationships. But I am most proud of the thousands of community hours that our chapters have engaged in directly reaching out to different API communities all across the country in providing health screenings, education, and enrichment.
Having just attended our recent National Board meeting and having the chance to hear the thoughts and provide some input to our current leaders, I think APAMSA is continuing to grow in a very positive manner. I know that APAMSA is very conscious of being an inclusive organization and there is an active effort to promote health topics that include South Asians and Pacific Islanders. There are discussions to expand on our advocacy in trying to be involved in LBGTQ issues in the APIA community, and APAMSA is developing protocols to be more proactive in addressing key topics in health advocacy. There are some cool new initiatives such as our APAMSA Clinic Consortium, partnerships with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, and we are connecting better than before with our local chapters via things such as the local chapter capture, a database that reaches out to over 4000 members, and significant increase in our use of social media. On a personal level, I am hoping to be able to find ways for alumni to be more involved in APAMSA, being able to hopefully participate as a speaker or a panelist in future APAMSA conferences to provide perspective to our current members, and to help our Physicians Advisory Board/Recent Alumni Advisory Board be more involved with our current National Board.
What advise do you have for current medical students?
My advice for current medical students would be to find the things that you truly enjoy in medical field and focus on those things. One major difference from my undergrad days to my medical school experience and was that instead of joining many clubs and interests, I really focused on APAMSA and my research and put a full effort into those interests; I felt that I got a lot more out of my couple of deep interests in medical school than the many clubs I tried joining in high school and college. To the first and second years, I would try to make sure that you find volunteer experiences whether it’s your local health fair or the student-run clinic or doing a house build for Habitat for Humanity because it’s important to get to know your community beyond since them at the clinic or their hospital bed. To the third and fourth years, take the time as a medical student to truly get to know your patients. I think the biggest challenge for me at work as an intern has been not having the time to sit down and having a conversation with the every patient about their life and how they feel emotionally about things while they are at the hospital. The patients all carry a very unique story and I really encourage you all to get to know these stories and learn from it! Last but not least, learn to find some passion in something outside medicine. For me, as a medical student, I found my involvement with APAMSA to be an outlet away from rotations and schoolwork since I got to network with a family of people that was focused on a common passion. I also found long distance running as a Of course, don’t hesitate to contact me about any advice from getting interested in medicine to life in medical school.
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