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Finding Your Voice: The 2020 APAMSA Region V Conference

This past weekend, four of my M1 classmates and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2020 APAMSA Region V Conference – Finding Your Voice hosted by the APAMSA chapter at the Ohio State University College of Medicine! The Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association (APAMSA) is a national organization that brings together medical and pre-medical students across the U.S. through local, regional, and national events. The organization’s mission is to promote the health of the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) community and to address issues that disproportionately affect APIA individuals while serving these populations in a culturally sensitive manner.

Shannon Jiang, Curtis Kuo, Daniel Yang, Angela Yim, and I represented the UMMS chapter of APAMSA, also known as the United Asian American Medical Students Association (UAAMSA) here on campus. We made the three-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio last Friday afternoon, and had the chance to get to know each other even better than we already had through some fun conversations on the car ride and throughout the weekend. When Saturday morning came around, we headed off to the incredibly beautiful Ross Heart Hospital for the conference, and met several medical and pre-medical students from all across the Midwest region. First, we heard from State Senator Tina Maharath, the first Asian-American woman ever to be elected to the Ohio Senate. She overcame great adversity as the daughter of Laotian refugees, and she is now tremendously involved in her community and advocates for diverse representation in politics. I was then mesmerized by Dr. Peter Lee, a practicing cardiothoracic surgeon who impressively merged his various passions including Tae Kwon Do and space into his career path in medicine and research. He pursued degrees at various institutions including the International Space University, and he has flown several microgravity and spaceflight projects with support from the NIH and NASA (so cool!).

Afterwards we had several breakout sessions including a resident panel, a leadership workshop, and a discussion on breaking the APIA mental health stigma. One of the panelists that spoke to us is currently a general surgery resident who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and actually started the Medicine in Mandarin course that over a dozen of my classmates participated in this year! Another session featured Dr. Ron Jacob, a former Be The Match Executive Director, who addressed the inequality of available life-saving blood, stem cell, and marrow donors for ethnically diverse patients. And the last breakout session featured a dermatologist and a facial plastic surgeon who shared their personal stories and achievements (lots of words of wisdom). Finally, to end the conference, we heard from two women who have dedicated much of their lives to building strong communities through leadership in community-based Asian organizations that strive to address health concerns within the Asian population in Ohio through free clinics and local screenings.

I was thoroughly fascinated by each of the speakers and all the stories that they shared! The marvelous thing about conferences (for me, at least) is their power to inspire and reinvigorate my passion for medicine. I love having the chance to get out of the library and Ann Arbor for a weekend so I can meet and make connections with medical students at other institutions while learning about their experiences, be reminded of the importance of giving back to the community particularly in the context of health care, and hear about the roller coaster of a journey that successful practicing physicians have lived through.