CARBON HEALTH: You have such an interesting journey to healthcare. Can you share some of your backstory with Carbon Health patients?
Wing Wu: I’m the youngest of three siblings, born to Chinese immigrant parents. I grew up in rural Minnesota where we were pretty much the only family that was of different ethnicity and culture. My parents, of course, were the owners of the town’s Chinese-American restaurant.
My sisters and I grew up in the restaurant. My parents never really picked up English and truly isolated themselves, working 6–7 days a week, to provide us with the American dream.
We grew up with no health insurance and no community of color. I grew very accustomed to my mother’s stinky “health” concoctions. We did have access to one family doctor, who was also Chinese, and would pretty much barter his services for traditional Chinese food.
I never imagined I would go into medicine. I didn’t have that guidance growing up. I only had the influence and Asian guilt of needing to “make money and become something respectable” (aka a doctor or lawyer).
CH: So when did you first start to realize healthcare was the career path you wanted to follow?
WW: I was a bit more rambunctious and rebellious than my sisters and hated the concept of money! I went to college a year early, studying biology and Justice and Peace. Low and behold, my last year of college took me to Havana, Cuba, with Patch Adams, and my fascination for equitable, accessible and quality healthcare was born.
CH: Working with the Patch Adams must have been beyond inspiring.
WW: After college graduation, I was heading in the direction of nursing when the opportunity to study medicine in Cuba came up. In 2001, I became one of the first eight U.S. students to join the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba. I graduated with a medical degree in 2007 with eight other students from the United States and about 1,000 other individuals from all over Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Cuba.
CH: That’s so incredible. What did you do after returning to the United States?
WW: I decided to move to California and after almost 10 years of failed attempts of licensure, and working on/off full-time at La Clinica de la Raza in the Bay Area, I decided to enroll in the Entry Level Master’s in Nursing Program at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland. Three and half years later, I graduated and received my license to practice. Within a few months of licensure, I landed at the doors of Carbon Health as a new provider, finally bringing closure to my goals of becoming a medical provider.
CH: It sounds like you’ve been on quite a journey before landing at Carbon Health!
WW: It’s been a longer than usual journey for me specifically in becoming a medical provider. At no point in my journey do I have any regrets. It was Cuba that introduced me to the concept of medicine as a career. It is the Cuban system that taught me the importance of public education, preventative medicine, and universal healthcare. It is one of the few places in the world that actually believes and supports the concept of healthcare being a human right.
It’s been a rollercoaster, and there have been so many different factors and challenges that have driven and helped me develop into becoming a healthcare provider for the people.
CH: What have you found most gratifying about being a healthcare provider during COVID-19?
WW: It’s been great to have a voice to share the appropriate medical and scientific information to our patients and the public in regard to COVID-19. There is so much information or misinformation and hype regarding COVID-19, striking a lot of fear and frustration with the community. I find it gratifying to help clarify the misconceptions and poor governmental management of this pandemic. As a provider, I feel we play an important role in helping keep calm and disseminating the appropriate medical information.
CH: What makes Carbon Health such a unique and special place to work?
WW: Carbon Health Urgent Care provides a stepping stone for our failing healthcare system. So many Americans pay so much money for health insurance but have no idea how to use it. Many individuals have “healthcare” but have no primary care home or their primary care home is so inundated with patients, they cannot get appointments within a week or two or even a month. Carbon Health provides that temporary bridge of care; we can temporarily provide medical care while helping define and guide the many individuals through the healthcare system.
CH: How has this crisis changed the way you look at healthcare?
WW: It hasn’t really changed the way I look at healthcare, I’m just seeing more holes. It’s hard to come from being trained in Cuba, where there is a strong public healthcare base in their healthcare practices and universal healthcare. I was also there when the Dengue epidemic was occurring and as an international student, I also saw how they managed malaria. Obviously, not a perfect country or a perfect healthcare system, but there are many things we could learn.
CH: What do you think the future of healthcare will be once this has passed?
WW: I think this is still in evolution. I have a lot of hope people will believe and support a universal healthcare system, reinvest in science, public health, and support our national ties with the World Health Organization.
CH: Do you have any inspiring stories about this experience?
WW: We do have our good days and feel-good moments. The other day in the clinic, one of my SS staffers asked me if it was OK to get a Rapid COVID test done for a homeless gentleman who needed one to get into housing. I, of course, agreed to the test. The man was very nice and respectful, we did the test, and results were provided within 20 minutes while he waited in the wait room. Not only did the SS provide a voice for this individual, but she also helped him contact the rehab/housing establishment and they were able to offer him housing that DAY! The man was so happy and was brought to tears! All this happened because of one person with a huge heart and an organization and team that supported her.
CH: What has surprised you about people/coworkers in a positive way during COVID?
WW: I love my coworkers, this isn’t new. But the above story is the one that really does stand out. We’re all in it together. The pandemic has pulled us together a bit more as a team. This is evident by all the emails, texts, Slack messages, smiles, lunches, snacks, and Boba! Every little thing makes a difference.