Asian American health workers are fighting viral and racist attacks


NEW YORK (AFP) – Medical student Nati Jomerernfung has a vaccine and protective gear to protect her from the coronavirus. But it could not avoid being subjected to the anti-Asian bigotry that has surfaced after the pathogen was first identified in China.

She said psychiatric patients described her as racist strife due to illness. A passerby spat on the Thai-born student “to return to China” when she left a hospital in New York City where she was training.

Jomerernfung, who reported the attack to police, said that while she was walking there wearing scrubs on February 15, a man approached her, catching the “Chinese virus”, took her cell phone and dragged her onto the sidewalk. The investigation is underway.

For healthcare workers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, “It seems like we’re fighting multiple battles at the same time – not just COVID-19, but also racism,” says Jomrornfung, a student at Icahn School of Medicine in Mount. Sinai.

Asian Americans and the Pacific Islands They faced a wave of harassment and attacks In many places during a pandemic. But those in health care feel the intense and paradoxical pain of the racial targeting of the virus while they toil to prevent people from dying from it.

“People in my community have gone from being a healthcare hero to being a scapegoat in some way,” said Dr. Michael Lee, a New York-based radiologist. It mobilized 100 medical workers in white coat in March to denounce hate crimes against Asians.

“We are not providing you with the virus,” said Lee, who remembers strangers who spat on her twice last year. “We are literally trying to help you get rid of the virus.”

People of Asian and Pacific Islander descent make up about 6% to 8% of the US population, but a larger share is in some health care professions, including about 20% of doctors and pharmacists who are non-surgeons and 12% to 15% of surgeons, and surgeons. . Therapists and physician assistants, as per federal statistics.

Before the pandemic, studies found that 31% to 50% of physicians of Asian descent experienced discrimination at work ranging from patients’ refusal to care for them to the difficulty of finding mentors. That’s a smaller percentage of black doctors, but higher than Hispanic and white doctors, according to a 2020 study that reviewed current research. In a separate 2020 study of residents, all people of Asian descent said patients questioned them about their ethnicity.

Hueyjong “Huey” Shih, a medical student at Columbia University, recalls encountering “too many assumptions, all boiled down into one very inappropriate question” from a hospital colleague: Was Shih a lonely child due to China’s past one-child policy?

Born in Maryland and whose family is from Taiwan, Xie said the fellow apologized after being corrected. He and medical students Jasper Key and Kate E. Lee have written for Health News State and appealed to health organizations to include the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islands in their anti-racism training.

For generations, Asian Americans have argued With them being considered “permanent foreigners” in a country that has a history of treating them as a threat. Officials wrongly blamed San Francisco’s Chinatown for a smallpox outbreak in the 1870s, and banned many Chinese immigrants under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Japanese were forced into concentration camps Tens of thousands of their relatives even served in the US Army during World War II.

During the pandemic, former President Donald Trump has repeatedly called COVID-19 the “China virus” and in other terms activists say has fueled anger toward Asian Americans.

Police reports of hate crimes against Asians In 26 major US cities and counties, it jumped 146% last year, while hate crime overall rose 2%, according to California State University, San Bernardino Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. The Stop AAPI Hate advocacy group has sent approximately 3,800 reports of abuse, harassment and discrimination from mid-March 2020 through the end of February – Before a gunman killed eight people, including six of Asian descent, At the Atlanta area massage companies in March.

The statistics do not differentiate among health care workers among the victims.

Escalation “makes racism look more terrifying than the virus” by Dr. Amy Zhang, anesthesiologist in Washington University Hospitals.

“It’s a constant fear. You never know when you’re going to be targeted.”

Early in the pandemic, I faced the risk of contracting COVID-19 while intubating patients. Face to face with racism when a white man in the street muttered vulgarly about China and “gave us smallpox,” then started chasing her while shouting racist titles and sexual threats until she was hospitalized, she said.

“Despite the fact that I pulled myself out of poverty to chase the American dream, despite the fact that I can save lives under stressful conditions, none of this protects me from the racist stinging,” Zhang wrote in Crosscut, Pacific Northwest News. “. Location. She is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who worked long hours for low wages.

These days, Ida Chen, the New York doctor’s assistant, carries pepper spray all the time, sets her cell phone to notify all her friends of her location and never wanders alone. For a while, she hid the roots of her dark brown hair under a hat so that only the dyed blonde ends were visible.

She began to take those precautions after a man climbed her bike on a Manhattan street in March 2020 and mocked that he would be “in you, but I don’t want to catch the Coronavirus,” then followed her while screaming until she called 911, she said.

“I got into medicine thinking: I’m treating people with the best possible intention,” said Chen, who is of Chinese descent. “It hurts that someone doesn’t reciprocate that kind of sympathy and goodwill.”

Chen and others say the Georgia shooting prompted them to talk about what they were seeing Downplaying long-standing anti-Asian racism.

“The whole reason why I became a doctor is to help my community,” she tells me, the daughter of South Korean immigrants who have no other doctors in the family. “If I don’t speak on behalf of my community, what did they sacrifice for – they did everything they did – for?”

Jomerernfung, who knows she is strange, said she has been subjected to discrimination before. But it was different when you were targeted because of her race, and in a country where you portrayed the American dream as “trying to make it a better place for everyone and yourself.”

“For a moment, I was a bit pessimistic about whether or not people want me here,” she said. But she focused on how colleagues rallied around her, how the hospital expressed her support, and how patients showed appreciation for her work.

“I still believe in the best of America,” she said.

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