I grew up in a Northern California town that was predominantly Asian. I was fortunate to have a rich cultural experience where, from an early age, I had an understanding of the differences in the cultures between my Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino friends.
It wasn't just physical appearance or last names that differentiated them, but the language, cultural traditions and food (!!!) that showed me how unique each culture was.
Why Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is Important to Me
As a young kid, I knew that each culture had its own identity and much like my South Asian (East Indian) background was unique. I never considered them all to fit into one "Asian" category and always thought of each one as different and individual.
In the last several years, it's been great to see that medical research, particularly women's health and fertility care, is incorporating ethnicity and racial disparity.
However, often these studies will incorporate all Asian/Pacific American (AAPI) patients in the same "Asian" category, effectively stripping each culture of its individuality.
Celebrating Similarities—While Embracing Differences
As a scientist, I understand that pooled data from population based studies allows for better comparisons (I was a kid who grew up being able to tell the difference between a Lumpia vs an egg roll vs spring roll); I see the heterogeneity within that singular Asian population group.
On the other hand, as a physician, I understand that each of those characteristics and qualities that makes each culture unique, has the potential to contribute to varying health differences and potentially outcomes when discussing health care treatment.
While more studies are definitely needed to understand how each ethnic group within the AAPI community has differing fertility issues and outcomes, here's hoping that AAPI Heritage Month allows people to learn how and why each culture is distinct from one another, and why those differences are important to understand.