9 medical pioneers to celebrate for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, here are nine exceptional researchers and healthcare professionals who advanced medicine and race relations in the U.S.

Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, for her breakthrough in "functionally curing" newborns of AIDS. Dr. Luzuriaga is a Filipino American physician and pediatric immunologist who was named one of Time Magazine 100 most influential people in the world in 2013, after she was part of three-woman researcher team who discovered a breakthrough that could cure newborns of AIDS when HIV is transmitted to them from their mother during birth.

Derald Sue, PhD, and Stanley Sue, PhD, for their contributions to ethnic minority psychology. Two Chinese American brothers were influential figures in ethnic minority psychology, a subfield of psychology concerned with the science and practice of psychology with racial and ethnic minority individuals and groups. In 1972, the Sue brothers founded the Asian American Psychological Association. Dr. Derald Sue is best known for his work on multicultural counseling and racial microaggression, and Dr. Stanley Sue is best known for his work on cultural competence in psychotherapy with Asian Americans and ethnic minorities.

Marjorie Mau, MD, for being the first Native Hawaiian to earn the title of "master" physician by the American College of Physicians. Dr. Mau conducted groundbreaking research in metabolic disorders among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in 2012. The National Institutes of Health featured Dr. Mau as a worthy mentor for young scientists through the BioMedical Faces of Science program.

David Ho, MD, for pioneering treatment of HIV/AIDS. Dr. Ho is a Taiwanese American physician who was named Time's Man of the Year in 1996 for his research proving that HIV replicates immediately when entering a patient's bloodstream. When HIV was first discovered in the 1980s, scientists believed that the virus lay dormant in patients for years before attacking the immune system, and medication was withheld until patients exhibited visible symptoms of full-blown AIDS. His research led to the introduction of drugs used to slow the advance of the virus immediately upon detection. 

Margaret Chung, MD, for becoming the first American-born Chinese female physician. Dr. Chung became the first American-born female Chinese physician in 1916. She was the only woman in her class, dressed in masculine clothing and called herself, "Mike." Dr. Chung was denied residencies and internships in hospitals before becoming an emergency surgeon in Los Angeles. In the early 1920s, she helped establish the first Western hospital in San Francisco's Chinatown and led its OB-GYN and pediatrics unit, where she treated the local Chinese American community. Dr. Chung helped to establish Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services, or WAVES, the women's branch of the naval reserves during World War II, which paved the way for women's integration into the U.S armed forces, though she was rejected from serving in it herself, likely because of her race and her sexuality.

Haing Ngor, MD, for his role in helping refugees and advocating for justice in Cambodia. Dr. Ngor was a gynecologist and obstetrician in Cambodia before being forced into a prison camp under the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975. He suffered four years of torture, starvation and exhaustion, but was able to keep himself alive with his medical knowledge. Dr. Ngor was finally able to escape in 1979 after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. He worked in refugee camps in Thailand and Los Angeles before being chosen to play Cambodian journalist Dith Pran in the 1984 film The Killing Fields, about the horrific ordeal Mr. Dith had experienced. He was the first actor of Asian descent to win an Academy Award for best supporting actor. He used his platform to advocate for justice and speak out against leaders of the Khmer Rouge as well as financially support two clinics and a school in Cambodia.

Abraham Verghese, MD, for advocating for the importance of empathy in physician-patient relationships. Dr. Verghese is an Indian American physician who began his medical training in Ethiopia when his parents were recruited by Emperor Haile Selassie to teach near the capital. He studied as a resident in the U.S., where he later witnessed the AIDS epidemic firsthand in the 1980s. He worked with young AIDS patients at a time when little could be done for them, other than work with them through their premature deaths. He advocated the value of direct patient interaction and physical examination in diagnosing and demonstrating empathy. In September 2016, he received a National Humanities Medal at the White House from President Barack Obama.

Chi-Cheng Huang, MD, for his volunteer work with Bolivian children living on the streets. Dr. Huang is a Taiwanese American hospitalist and pediatrician who traveled to La Paz, Bolivia, to work at an orphanage. He soon realized the dire need for emotional and physical support for thousands of children living on the streets and in the sewers of La Paz. Since many of the children suffered physical abuse from adults, they were not readily trusting of him. Dr. Huang went out from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., when most of the children were out, to offer them care. This led him to found the Bolivian Street Children Project, a nonprofit dedicated to sheltering the street children.

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