Casey Chai, MD, is in her third year of training as a anesthesiology resident at the New York Presbyterian Hospital – Cornell and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She will likely pursue a pediatric anesthiology fellowship afterwards. She wrote her public health thesis on VHIO’s impact on the community.
EDUCATION COORDINATOR 2009 – 2010, DIRECTOR 2010-2011
I CAN’T IMAGINE HOW EXHAUSTING IT MUST HAVE BEEN TO BE THE ONLY DIRECTOR IN YOUR YEAR.
I joined SFHBC in my sophomore year and really enjoyed the existing education curriculum and the hepatitis B clinics, so in junior year I applied for the education coordinator position. That year, I found that there are a lot of requests for our interpreting and translating services beyond just the topic of hepatitis B, so that’s when I started thinking about expanding. During that same year, previous director Julia Lam recommended a summer internship position (REACH) with Asian Health Services, which I got. I used that position to establish connection between SFHBC/VHIO and AHS; I was also chosen by Julia to be the director for my senior year around the same time.
THE VOLUNTEER HEALTH INTERPRETERS ORGANIZATION
At the end of that summer in 2010, I had a brand new group of officers who had become my friends over the years of working together in VHIO, so I proposed to them the plan to change our name and expand, and everyone was on board. Among us officers, most of us were seniors with lighter class load. I myself had only 2-3 days of classes per week. A few of us put in 2 days a week for a period of 12-13 weeks to complete the LCAP training and get officially certified as medical interpreters in California. Concurrently as we were going through LCAP ourselves, we started Decal training for all members, just a few weeks behind our own LCAP training with AHS.
VHIO had all the elements it needed to expand clinically since there’s already demand out there, as well as in the education/training arm, now that we had imported the curriculum from LCAP. What it was lacking was research/data keeping—how are we going to keep track of what we did and prove that it was good work in the academic world? So I did a public health senior thesis with Dr.Winston Tseng who became our program faculty advisor.
VHIO is one of the best things I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of so far, and those couple years of transformation were exciting and fun because we were a group of friends working towards the same achievable goal, with a strong mission to help the LEP populations in the community. We put in a lot of work into selecting and training officers and members to make sure that VHIO is in good hands, and I see that that tradition has been carried on...
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
Currently, I’m in my 3rd year of residency training for anesthesiology that’s 4 years total, so I”m almost done with residency. Afterwards, I will likely do a pediatric anesthesiology fellowship.
Anesthesiology has little to do with work of VHIO, which I’m sad about. When I applied for med school in junior-senior year in college, I was so sure I wanted to do primary care and continue to serve the underserved communities, especially the LEP. But medical school is a different journey in which we all started afresh and rediscovered our interests and priorities. I found out that I loved surgeries and the OR, but I didn’t like surgeries enough to tolerate surgeons’ lifestyle and personalities, so I started exploring anesthesiology and fell in love with it. It was one of the only specialties that train doctors to be hands-on and be able to deal with most life-threatening situations.
In my med school years, I tried to create a training program for med students on how to work with interpreters, but I did not have enough support or interest from the other med students—a big difference from Cal, so it was started but did not last. In the past few years in residency though, I have encountered a lot of Mandarin speaking patients and stepped in almost on a weekly basis as interpreter.
This spotlight was first prepared in honor of our ten year anniversary.