Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Scientists
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This is a time and space to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans within the history, culture, and achievements in the United States. Given the current environment involving increased discrimination and violence against Asians and Asian Americans, it is more important than ever to stand up and acknowledge the need for equal and fair treatment that is deserving of all races and ethnicities. At Pii, we stand united with people of every race and gender and profess our unwavering commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, Equality & Justice, all of which are at the heart of our Pii Community and our Core Values.
The innovations and accomplishments of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have shaped the medical field as we know it, leaving tremendous contributions to medical science and beyond. We wanted to showcase examples of individuals that have reached major milestones within the medical community to serve as reminders of the significant impact that the Asian community has made on the world.
Dr. Margaret Chung,
born in 1889, was a graduate of the University of Southern California Medical School in 1916. She became the very first American-born Chinese female doctor. As a woman who would accomplish many “firsts”, she faced a great deal of discrimination in all aspects of her life. Having to dress in a masculine manner while in college, she referred to herself as “Mike” to pass as an unsuspecting student in the masses. Initially, she was denied internships and residencies in local hospitals but found success in becoming an emergency surgeon in Los Angeles, California. Shortly after she led the OB/GYN and pediatric unit at the first Wester hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She even assisted in paving the way for women in the United States armed forces by helping establish WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services.
Dr. Min Chueh Chang,
born in Taiyuan, China, helped develop one of the most significant medical breakthroughs with the creation of the birth control pill. This advancement in medicine helped him further his research on his primary focus. In 1959, he performed the first in vitro fertilization on black rabbits and the implantation of fertilized eggs into a white rabbit that would go on to give birth to a litter of black rabbits demonstrating the ability of this new discovery. Almost two decades later the world would have the first human birth as a result of in vitro fertilization in 1978.
Dr. David Ho,
a Taiwanese-American physician, developed foundational research for the modern “cocktail” antiretroviral therapy. After moving to the United States after 6th grade, Dr. David Ho grew up in Los Angeles and attended the California Institute of Technology and then Harvard to complete his medical doctorate. Returning to LA as a resident in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 1981, he worked with the first patients who suffered from an unknown illness later discovered to be AIDS. Alongside his team of medical professionals, he championed the combination of antiretroviral therapy for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. This allowed for the control of HIV replication in patients. Today his focus is on non-vaccine preventative measures that are even in Phase 3 trials and has engineered potent antibodies that neutralize divergent strains of HIV. Dr. David Ho’s research has made living with HIV a manageable variable in millions of patients' lives.
Dr. Chi-Cheng Huang,
is a hospitalist and pediatrician who graduated from Harvard Medical School. During college, he took time away from academia and traveled on a mission trip with a local Boston church. He traveled to La Paz, Bolivia to assist in the local community and work at an orphanage. He would see unimaginable conditions in the lives of thousands of children. The children suffered from physical abuse from the adults within the community that resulted in distrust and uncertainty of Dr. Huang’s presence. He took it upon himself to go outside between the hours of 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM as most of the children would be out late into the night. Here he would treat children with varying elements and illnesses and slowly but surely gained their trust. His destined meeting of one child, in particular, changed his life. The child requested three things: a home where other children could be safe, for Dr.Huang to never leave and for their story to be shared so that they could receive more help that they desperately needed. This exchange led to the founding of the non-profit Bolivian Street Children Project. Dr. Huang would go on to write a book “When Invisible Children Sing” that would share the reality of the experience these children were facing and how he was able to treat them. Thanks to his humanitarian work, Dr. Huang has received multiple awards including the Taiwanese American Foundation-Asian Pacific Public Affairs Division’s Civil Servant of the Year Award, Harvard’s Gold Stethoscope Award for Teaching, and the Boston University School of Medicine’s Association of American Medical Colleges Humanism Award.
These are just a handful of the stories that demonstrate the true impact of the Asian community on our world. As the month of May continues, the momentum must carry on each and every day of the year in the fight for a more just and equal world for all. We at Pii will continue to actively engage people from all backgrounds and truly listen to every voice in the unending pursuit of diversity and inclusion.