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China Daily Global / 2021-05 / 21 / Page006

Asian medics reel from racist assaults

By MINLU ZHANG in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-21 00:00

US healthcare workers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have been involved in two battles during the COVID-19 pandemic: with the coronavirus itself and racism.

Natty Jumreornvong, a medical student at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in the city, said she has been called by her psychiatry patients a racial slur.

Jumreornvong has treated COVID-19 patients often. But that did not exempt her from the anti-Asian bigotry that has occurred since the coronavirus was first identified. Various research has indicated that coronavirus was likely circulating undetected in other countries for months before hitting Wuhan in late-December 2019.

"One day when I was walking to the hospital, a man came up to me and called me 'Chinese virus,'" said Jumreornvong, who grew up in Thailand. "Then he kicked me and dragged me."

"Asian Americans are becoming a scapegoat," said Lee, a physician at a hospital in New York City who asked that her name be withheld."This is wrong. I and many other Asian American doctors are fighting COVID, but people are spitting on us or hitting us because they think that we brought the virus."

Asian medical workers have had front-row seats in seeing the increase in anti-Asian racism. Although many healthcare workers were being called heroes for treating people with COVID-19, Asian medical workers were often vilified.

"Asian Americans did not bring the virus; we are treating the virus," said Lee, who said she was spat on by strangers twice in the last year.

Some Asian medical students were told to "go back to China" when they walked outside.

People of Asian and Pacific Islander descent represent 6.8 percent of the US population, but are more represented in some healthcare professions, including 18 percent of the country's physicians and 10 percent of nursing practitioners.

Asians, with 1.4 million healthcare workers, make up 8.5 percent of the essential workers on the front lines fighting the virus.

More than one in five physicians and surgeons on the front lines are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Among nurses, about one in 11, or 348,000, are of Asian descent, a report from immigrant research organization New American Economy said.

Nurses of Filipino descent comprise just 4 percent of the workforce, but nearly a third of registered nurse deaths due to COVID-19. National Nurses United, the country's largest nurses union, said.

Some patients have refused to be treated by them. And Asian healthcare workers are told to wash their hands more often and blamed for the coronavirus by their own patients.

"I get really scared, especially during my night shift," Jumreornvong said."I don't want to walk in the middle of the night even (though) I only live a few blocks away from the hospital."


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