On being Asian in America
Eric J. Lee is a final-year PharmD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.
The tragedy in Atlanta, GA, on March 16, 2021, made national headlines as a mass shooting senselessly took eight lives, six of whom were of Asian descent. Recent acts of violence and discrimination against the Asian/Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) group have spiked in the past year due to unfair blaming of Asians for the coronavirus pandemic. This rhetoric is not new, but the acts of hate and violence have escalated.
People of the AAPI community were shaken throughout the country, and Pittsburgh was no different. The University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy has a significant percentage of students, faculty, and staff members in the AAPI community. I felt it was important to bring this conversation, more awareness of the situation, and AAPI voices to the University of Pittsburgh school body.
Town hall beginnings
The town hall was born after I had a series of conversations with Patricia Kroboth, PhD, dean; and Mario Browne, MPH, CHES, CDP, professor and associate dean of equity, engagement, and justice. My initial goal was to carry the discussion of discrimination forward with the school administration. I had never envisioned something as big as a town hall.
The town hall took place remotely on April 21, 2021, and featured six AAPI panelists from the school of pharmacy. The first panelist, Wen Xie, MD, PhD, chair of pharmaceutical sciences, discussed the history and context of racism and discrimination against AAPI. Subsequent panelists—Eric Joohyung Lee, Xinran Cai, Xin (Oliver) Tong, Jessica Nguyen, and Jasmine Chang—shared their personal experiences of racism, discrimination, and prejudice. More than 150 people, including faculty, staff, and students, joined the call. After the panelists’ presentations, a discussion section highlighted our goals going forward.
I’m glad the town hall had a successful turnout, despite being scheduled so close to final exams. Many classmates and faculty members reached out to me to express their gratitude for holding an event that allowed them to share their voices or to learn about these experiences.
The “Unity in Diversity” theme speaks to my belief in the importance of empathizing with and understanding the stories of individuals from different backgrounds. It is crucial to continue learning about the experiences and plights of certain marginalized communities so that we can become not only better health care professionals but also better people.