Simrun Bal – 2012

Dear Ms. Walton,

I hope you are doing well. I would like to begin this letter by thanking you and the PAM Program for your funding contribution, allowing me to attend ECAASU. ECAASU was an amazing learning experience that I think will serve as helpful as I work to improve the Richmond community. Below I have described how I benefited from attending this great conference, and additionally, my action steps in utilizing my knowledge from ECAASU and applying it to the UR community.

This year’s ECAASU theme centered around the multifaceted ideas of “rediscovery, renaissance, and revolution” — themes that were definitely articulated and reflected in the workshops and speakers. That said, these ideas, although eloquently worded, were not always reflected in my observations of inclusive dialogue and interactions at the conference, reminding me, once again, that although words are important, actions are even more important in community building. This is an important idea to note for groups on campus that I am a part of – such as SASA or ASU. We must not only talk about inclusivity and dialogue, but also practice it – perhaps by partnering with other organizations or doing service projects for those who may be excluded or are victimized by mainstream society.

I’ll first address the workshops, speakers, and performances. The initial opening ceremony was incredibly well-done, with diverse performances from a variety of groups — the Chinese Dance Troupe at Duke (such a beautiful dance), a Bollywood dance group (also amazing), and other wonderful dances. The speakers (Rosalind Chou and Ryan Takemiya) were also very articulate and definitely produced speeches that were both thought-provoking and inspiring. I really benefited from this quote: “Before you change the system, you must start to change yourself.” I also found Takemiya’s discussion of self-hatred in API communities to be quite thought-provoking, but I am not sure how we, as college students, could start helping API community members in ameliorating self-hatred…because it is also so important, I believe, to also acknowledge the media (and society’s) role in producing the effects of institutionalized racism and indirectly portraying Asian Americans in certain ways in ads, movies, etc.

The next day, I attended three diverse workshops: (1) Asians Abroad; (2) Microaggressions, and (3) Cultural Competency and Language Access in Working with Behavioral Healthcare for API communities. The first workshop was my least favorite, as I found the speaker as a not very effective communicator, and her entire workshop was focused on her own experiences abroad, which I found to be repetitive and not very focused on solving issues of injustice in API communities. The second workshop I attended was Microaggressions, which I found to be incredibly interesting and helpful to my studies of medical anthropology as well.

The third workshop was most beneficial to me, since I am interested in the health needs of API communities, particularly those of refugee communities from Bhutan, Nepal, etc. I learned so much about the healthcare disparities in Asian communities — for instance, out of the categories “non-Latino/White,” “Latino,” “African-Americans,” and “Asians,” Asian-Americans had the largest proportion of people who were NOT taking anti-depressants or other treatment for depressive disorders…perhaps because of stigma, silence, or lifestyle. I also found it so interesting to learn more about how a lack of language access impedes access to treatment and health care, and that misunderstandings of cultural practices/beliefs can result in negative health outcomes (just read the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” about a Hmong girl’s experience with epilepsy). It is so important for contemporary physicians to be aware and affirmative of different cultural practices, and to be OPEN to explaining to patients about their diagnosis — especially to patients who might be illiterate.

After attending ECAASU, my action steps in considering how to make a difference on campus are: (1) utilize my new knowledge of API health disparities in my understanding of health and social justice – by applying for summer internships focused in this area, and by talking to the Global Health Club or the Global Health program about these disparities; (2) foster partnerships and begin to create inclusive dialogue in SASA and/or ASU – this could possibly take the form of the “Holi” event that SASA is considering planning; and (3) Carry over my new knowledge of seeing ECAASU as not only meant for those who are Asians, but those who are interested in fighting issues of intolerance and injustice to build a better society – as a Cultural Advisor. I hope to either run a hall event about a topic that is similar to microaggressions or another cultural topic of interest.

Once again, thank you very much for funding me to attend ECAASU. This experience was eye-opening and incredibly useful to my time at UR.


Simrun Bal

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