BY: ROBERT FU
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What song are you into right now?
So I’ve been really into Korean rap recently.
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.
Well we have like a list of all the bubble tea places in NY on a sheet with like descriptions and categories and stuff.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com!
People in this article
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.
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!