UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA
For me, this self-realization of what being Taiwanese meant was a stepping stone towards the immense pride I now feel.
I am a second generation Taiwanese American, born and raised in San Jose, California, and now completing my last year of undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego. Throughout the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to live a comfortable lifestyle full of wellness and good health. My parents immigrated from Taiwan to the US some thirty odd years ago, in search of better prospects for education and undoubtedly, for the good of their future children. In doing so, they essentially secured for me a life where opportunities abound. For that, among a plethora of other priceless opportunities, I cannot thank them enough!
Since childhood, I had always known that I wanted to become a practicing physician, and my coursework, personal experiences and extracurricular have only bolstered such a goal. But it has since become more than just a childhood aspiration. In my studies and coursework in healthcare sociology, I have been able to juxtapose this lifestyle that my parents selflessly gave to me, and the lifestyles of those who are not as socially and economically fortunate as I am. That childhood aspiration has suddenly become more tangible and multifaceted, and I have found myself both frustrated and fascinated by the status of healthcare and modern medicine. Although I have yet to don my scrubs and white coat, I feel like this is no longer just a fantasy of age-old naïveté, but something which I am confident I want to do for life.
Tell us about your organization / project, your role, and its impact?
I currently serve as President of UCSD’s Student Health Advocates (SHA). SHAs work through the on-campus clinic, UCSD Student Health Services (SHS), and essentially act as student liaisons between the general student body and SHS to promote student health and awareness of health issues. The SHA program is an essential component of SHS, and offers many activities and outreaches through which to inform and educate. SHAs are trained in performing basic clinical tasks, as well as in educating students about many health issues and concerns. When seeking general information about health issues, which can sometimes be sensitive, people often find it more comfortable to talk to peers. Therefore, as trained student educators, SHAs provide a powerful service to the overall health of the student body.
I can easily say that the SHA program has been the highlight of my undergraduate career. Not only has it provided me with ample opportunities to experience the clinical environment and learn about various health issues, it has also allowed me to develop and apply various skills in communication, teamwork, and efficiency. As a general SHA, I perfected the tasks of taking blood pressure, educating students on the effects of smoking and presenting methods through which to deal with stress. As President, aside from overseeing general body and officer meetings, I have taken on responsibilities geared more toward the planning and execution of our events. Working with a board of officers, I have truly learned how much time and coordination it takes to effectively carry out a single event. But it’s worthwhile to see the successful completion of each event, and knowing how much it helps fellow students. Being President of SHA has allowed me to commit to my passions of providing for people from a different, more indirect perspective, and further attests to my goal of becoming a health care provider.
Where do you find your inspiration and motivation as a student leader?
I believe one of the most basic wonders of being a patient lies in observing the seemingly endless knowledge being relayed to you, and the simple, satisfying feeling of knowing you will get better on the basis of such information. In realizing this, from the plethora of visits I made to my own physician, I concluded that I would like to someday be on the other side of this professional-to-patient exchange and experience the satisfaction of being able to inform, educate and improve the lives of others. This was primarily why I became involved in SHA, since it offered opportunities to become an active and vocal advocate for health to the general student body.
I also believe that in following the path toward being a health care professional, it is a moral responsibility of physicians to be aware of social issues and the current health care disparities experienced by the populace. Because of such goals, I take it upon myself to understand not only the hard clinical elements of the medical sciences, but also the social elements which strongly affect health. As such, I am also involved in the Roosevelt Institute, a student-based policy think tank, where I research and write briefs to suggest ideas for improvements in health care. For example, I recently published a policy brief on vaccine shortages in the US and their impact on public health, to be presented to politicians on Capitol Hill. In doing so, I hope to better understand the basis of what I hope to make my career, and to apply myself to the health of society in general. In essence, I am driven by aspirations of what I would like to see in terms of improvements in medicine and health care, as well as by personal passions. To sum this up…See the change? Be the change.
Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?
Growing up, there was definitely a bit of confusion about my ethnicity. My parents were born and raised in Taiwan, as were my grandparents and their parents. I was therefore Taiwanese as well, on the basis of heritage. I would tell my friends that yes, “I am Taiwanese!” But when they asked me how it differed from being Chinese, I wasn’t sure what to say.
But after each yearly childhood trip to beautiful Taiwan, I realized that it was too culturally unique – the history, the people, the places, the (amazing) food – to be confused with another country. The texture and taste of the air walking around 西門町, the demeanor of the populace and the way in which they carry themselves, the very quirks of your beloved 阿公 and 阿嬤 that you’d only expect to find in peoples so very vested and brought to fruition in what makes Taiwan, Daiwan.
For me, this self-realization of what being Taiwanese meant was a stepping stone towards the immense pride I now feel. It is but a small tribute to the struggle of Taiwan to be recognized by the world, but at the same time, the struggle for recognition makes me all the more proud, as it shows the resilience of the Taiwanese people and their unwavering loyalty and love toward what makes them so unique. Taiwan is truly a source of inspiration and as such, I am proud to call myself Taiwanese American.
What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?
As American born peoples residing in America, it is easy to forget the roots of our heritage. I hope that my fellow Taiwanese Americans will strive to uphold facets of Taiwanese culture, such as through learning to speak Taiwanese, and learning the history and struggles of Taiwan. We can thereby preserve, uphold and even strengthen our presence in America. Additionally, it is a privilege to be exposed to both the cultures of Taiwan and America. I hope that we, as bi-cultural people, can apply what we learn within each culture and utilize it to improve upon the other.
Wow, this this person seems very impressive and accomplished. I am sure she will continue to make great impact in her community.
This is great! Congratulations!
This is awesome. Congrats Mel and keep pursuing your dreams.