Young Ophthalmology Committee
|Daniel Chao, MD, PhD|
|Royce Chen, MD|
|Olivia Lee, MD
Statement by Dr. R.V. Paul Chan, 2006
As a teenager, I didn’t fully understand my father’s commitment to the annual Chinese American Ophthalmological Society dinner. Back then I saw this devotion as bordering on obsession and often asked him why. And the response, as always, was resoundingly simple. He’d say, “because its important to me,” and leave it at that. As I saw it, he would seemingly drop everything just to have a simple Chinese dinner with a small group of Chinese Ophthalmologists.
Being born and raised in Philadelphia, I was fully assimilated to American culture. Though I was exposed to Chinese culture every once in a while in the shape of visits to Chinatown and the occasional tour of Asia, I never really established a solid bond with my Asian identity.
I eventually overcame that ambivalence when I started University and as my education continued through Medical School, Residency and then Fellowship. My education opened wider avenues to my parents’ profession in different cultural contexts, enabling me to realize that being Chinese American is distinct from simply being American.
That journey has helped me understand why CAOS was so important to my father. It wasn’t just a chance to socialize with acquaintances and friends. It was a chance to contribute something to the Chinese community whether it be here in the United States or in Asia. Having seen my parents at work both in America and Asia, I now know how enriched their lives were by being able to bridge both worlds. With the CAOS I have a chance to be involved in an organization that is committed to this awareness and puts it into action.
That change in my outlook on CAOS has also made me realize how important it is to have a mentor to exchange ideas with at home and abroad. It has also helped me understand that the world is bigger than the United States, that we are not just American, but Chinese American.
It’s crucial that we also strive to make ourselves available to answer questions that our experiences can help answer, whether it be from how to navigate or negotiate a contract to how to apply for your first NIH grant, or even to establish an educational exchange with doctors in Asia.
I think we need to make it a priority to reach out to students and young Ophthalmologists to get more involved.
It is important that we as Chinese American Ophthalmologists have a voice. I believe being vocal in the AAO will help us improve on the policies of the Academy. But we can only make an impact being proactive and taking the initiative to get involved.
R.V. Paul Chan, MD, FACS
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
St. Giles Associate Professor of Pediatric Retina
Director, Vitreoretinal Fellowship Program
Director, Retina Service
New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Weill Cornell Medical College
New York, New York