Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator
I did not know much about hepatitis B until around 2010, when I went to visit my uncle who was hospitalized for “liver sickness.” I had heard that he was sick, but I was not prepared for the drastic changes in his appearance. His skin and eyes were yellow, and he was very thin except for his swollen stomach. His wife and daughter were standing at his bedside, and they seemed just as lost and confused as I was. Where was the sociable and boisterous man we all knew and loved?
He passed away shortly after, and I learned from other relatives that it was from hepatitis B. This was told to me in hushed tones because there was some sort of intimation of blame. In a sense, the question seemed to hover around my relatives: What had my uncle done to deserve this? The stigma was so overwhelming for his wife that she withdrew from the family shortly after the funeral.
Later, when I learned more about hepatitis in my public health work, I resolved to increase awareness and access around hepatitis B, especially for immigrant and migrant communities. Although the work is challenging, it is always fulfilling. I hope that we can continue to build support and fight stigma regarding hepatitis B and C. No one should die of shame.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Hopeful, silly, supportive.
What is your greatest achievement?
Learning to laugh at myself.
What is your greatest regret?
Any thoughtless actions that I have done to hurt people, even if done unwittingly.
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
I would hope that people would not feel ashamed of their status.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Say thank you and mean it.
What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
It’s a toss-up between Rachel McClean and Alex Shirreffs, my fellow viral hepatitis prevention coordinators in California and Philadelphia.
What drives you to do what you do?
I believe that we can move the needle toward more health and social equity. Things may be unfair, but they don’t have to stay that way.
What is your motto?
Everyone is your teacher.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
My phone, ha-ha.
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A monk seal, because I love swimming and time to myself.