President’s Message

Posted on Mar 2, 2021 in President's Message | 0 comments

My ears perked up when I heard a code being called overhead in the ED. As I rushed to the nurse’s station, I was informed that a man was being wheeled back from the waiting room. “GSW” – gunshot wound for the uninitiated, was all that needed to be said. As the middle aged Asian male was rushed to a resuscitation bay on a stretcher, I could see that he was unresponsive and had an obvious penetrating wound to the head. I concentrated on the task at hand, performed my ABC’s of trauma resuscitation and stabilized him as best I could, so that he could be transferred subsequently to Highland Hospital for further treatment. During the resuscitation, I noticed his son, arms crossed, looking scared and worried.

“What happened?” I asked. He was a store owner and had stepped outside of his store, only to be senselessly shot.  My hopes for his survival given the grave nature of his injury were quite dim. It seems that minding one’s own business is one of the most dangerous things you can do these days.

I thought about this a lot later, and I was struck with a sense of anger and injustice. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Asian anger and violence, oftentimes to the most vulnerable – i.e. elderly. One only need to look at the shocking videos and reports that have surfaced as of late on traditional and social media to see what is going on. Whether this is fueled by simmering racist perceptions of the Asian community that truthfully, have always persisted in America, or the callous words and shaming by the past administration to characterize this pandemic as the “kung flu” and “China virus”, or by misplaced frustrations that make the Asian community a convenient target, I don’t know. Perhaps all of the above?  In times of crisis, we are always looking for someone to blame, and the “other”-ing of different racial and ethnic groups rationalizes the hate as justified.

The Bay Area, which has always prided itself on its inclusivity and diversity, has nonetheless had a dark history as it pertains to the Chinese American community. Thousands came as cheap labor to complete the transcontinental railroad, but were subsequently denied the opportunity to build their future in what they had then perceived as their new home, with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This forbade Chinese immigrants from settling in this country. It was only through the eventual repeal of this act in 1943 by the Magnuson Act, which allowed a paltry 105 Chinese immigrants per year, and then the subsequent abolishment of the National Origins Formula in 1965, that my family and I were allowed to immigrate here from Taiwan in 1978.

We have seen nationally that anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise – up 150 percent nationwide. In the Bay Area, 708 events have been reported since the pandemic started. Asians have been typically reticent to report, so this is likely an underestimate. I myself have not been immune to racial aspersions during the pandemic, even behind my white coat, mask and protective eyewear. Thankfully, none have escalated to violence.

A considerable number of Asian American physicians are part of this medical staff, and it is time that we acknowledge what is occurring within our local community and support them, and to help dispel the myths not just where we practice, but where we live and interact.   As I have previously highlighted the unjust and disproportionate impact that COVID has had (and continues to have) on our black and brown communities, so to do I ask that we all take some time to understand the impact it has had on the Asian community.

Jeff Chen MD, MPH, FACEP
Chief of Staff, ABSMC Summit Campus

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