tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN April 14, 2022 11:00am-11:17am EDT
the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. under the previous order, the senate stands adjourned until 12:30 p.m. on monday, april 18, 2022. adjourn:. the beginnings of your life were really quite incredible on so many levels. talk about the reasons you and your family came to the united states. you were born in china in 1983. right before your eighth birthday you immigrated to the united states. set the scene for us there.
why did your family decide to come here? >> tom, i do want to first mention if i may, when i first started writing a lifeline title for the book, not sure if my publisher will be happy because it ended up being the rejected title but the initial title was public-health saved your life today. i intended to writethis book not about my own journey at all , i wanted to tell the story and show the world what you all know about the incredible innovations, dedicated people working in our city and the difference we're making and also wanted to demonstrateabout the projects i was so proud of . what we're seeing in baltimore oand our opioid overdose work, saving 3000 lives in three years. our healthy babies product program that still going on
now. reducing mortality by 38 tpercent in a seven-year period. that's what i intended to write this book on but in talking to my publisher overtime i started to realize that my story is also a story of public health and that story was hard to write because i think like many people i had blocked out some of the difficult parts of my childhood and even my adulthood . just things i didn't really want to tell people and i had hidden away somewhere. i have not really talked to a lot of people about tom's depression, they were asking about immigration. people may have known parts of it but not, maybe not everything. my parents and grandparents suffered a lot during the cultural revolution in china . they were dissidents who fought against the communist government.
my grandfather, my father were imprisoned. my grandfather was an academic and was called out and beaten in front of his students. my father had a lot of political troubles including the time i was growing up and i went long period's of time without seeing him and i say all this because i knew from an early age that the plan, the goal was to leave china. i didn't know when this would happen but this was our goal and the only way you could leave china the time was for people to come, to pursue graduate education so my mother one day was very happy. she got into a graduate program in the us. she got into two graduate programs, one of them was in chicago at the university of illinois . the other was onewas in logan utah . these are the days
pre-google. she asked her professor would you where do you recommend i go? and the professor said utah. that it was utah we ended up in. in life there's so many crossroads and it's kind of funny to think through where would we be if we had gone to g chicago but that initial experience very much shaped me into when we first came to the us my family and i had $40. we didn't have money to buy blankets, didn't have money to buy heating and it was very cold. and we did go through a number of hardships. my parents work multiple jobs. my father delivered newspapers. he washed dishes in a restaurant in a restaurant. he was an engineer in china but couldn't find work and his degree wasn't recognized here. he didn't speak english. my mother who did speak
english's ended up studying to be a teacher, she's taught in la for many years but she was getting her teaching degree. she was also working in a video store and cleaning hotel rooms and we still went through many period where day we were worried about two things . we were worried about money and our immigration status and i remember that to this day this, these arguments my parentswould have. the angst that we would go through worrying about are we going to make rent ? we were convicted several times when i was a child and these are the things that definitely informed who i am and why i entered medicine and my understanding of public health but their stories i had not previously shared >> clearly and has informed your approach to public health and i think it has absolutely cengendered deep empathy and compassion on your part because that's the
other thing that comes through every phase of this book. your understanding and empathy for your patience and for people at large in terms of your positions as public health officials. let's talk about your mother a little bit because it's also a very poignant part of this book. she's no longer with us, she passed away from cancer in 2010 but your relationship with your mother, you write about in an open and vulnerable way . it was quite extraordinary that she was in a graduate program so beginning with that, trace the chronicle for us. as you grow up a very precocious and smart little girl, your relationship with her and how that evolved. >> this was another part of the book that i had not at
all intended to write about. this was supposed to be a book about the work we did in baltimore. how did i end up writing about my mother? motherhood and it up something in the book, i was thinking as a mother now myself i have two little kids . i think a lot of you in baltimore know about this and al i have a son who's almost 4 named eli named after the late congressman elijah cummings. i have a one-year-old, my own pandemic baby who just turned 16 months old and i'm thinking about children the whole time. i actually finished the book prior to the pandemic when i was pregnant with isabel. so pregnancy, motherhoodwas very much on my mind . and i think being a mom to maybe reflect so much about my relationship with my mother and it was just
memories and snippets and things that came back that i felt really ashamed about and i'llexplain . i had what can best be classified as a trained relationship shwith my mother going up. looking back, i was resentful that my mother was never there but here's why she wasn't there and at the time i'm sure i knew this . intellectually someone told me but i don't think i knew how to process it as a child. so my mother was in the fifth grade when because of the cultural revolution , all the schools sucked and she was not able to get former formal education beyond the fifth grade . her mother smuggled books in and she read by candlelight at night in order to keep up her studies. at some point the cultural revolution and it. my mother was in her mid-20s and she was given one opportunity to apply for
college. she knew she wanted to come to the us and have this different life and she had to get into college but having gone through no more than a fifth grade education she took thetest . she got into university. but that caveat was, the requirement was the students all had to live on campus even if they had children and again she was much older than everybody else was at the time, i think she was mid or late 20s at that time. she had to live on campus two and i remember growing up because she was studying and she was studying to get a better life but i had no concept of that growing up, i just knew i wasraised with my grandparents .i was resentful. fast forward when we moved to the us, i was taken away from my grandparents who raised me and i never saw my mother still because she was in a graduate waprogram. she was working all the time. the only time i saw her was i remember this.
she wanted to make sure i learned english because when i came here i didn't know english. she was strict about here so you need to learn. you have to memorize 100 vocabulary words every ornight and every night she would make sure that she drilled me on the spelling. the use of the words, the definition, 100 words in my studies because a lot of kids might resent that but there's . i was always sleep because my mother was working multiple jobs and by that time she came home i was sleeping. i remember being awoken every night tobe drilled on these vocabulary words . now that i think back i was such a brat. i said why am i doing this? without thinking for a moment about how tired she must have been and the kind of sacrifice she was making that every night she was coming home to say i want you to have your best life. this is why we're doing this but in any case, we just never really became close. we fought a lot and i didn't
really to know her until she was diagnosed with what turned about turned out to be metastatic fcancer and i was her caregiver for eight years while she fought for cancer. and went through many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and even in that period we still fought and argued a lot and now, my mother died. she died in 2010 nand well before i had my kids. now with my kids i think about my mother every day . i think about how much she would have loved them . she often talk about being a grandmother and i wish that my kids were able to learn from here and hope that her legacy , that i'll be able to impart her legacy to them. >> we learn in the book by the way that you came at age 8 just before your eighth birthday not seeking any
ambition by age 10 it was two years later you were winning the spelling bee in grammar. so the hundred words stuck. you remember the words which is pretty impressive. when you look at your basic biography there's a lot of things about it that showed incredible raccomplishment at a very early age. you went to college at age 13 . went to medical school at age 13. two masters degrees as a rhodes scholar from oxford . you work in rwanda with hiv-aids patients. you've been in public health and on national and international scene. and you're very humble about it when you recount this in the book . for example you talk about going to college at age 13 you say because i was only 13 when i was going to college i o was smart and it had more to
do with money. explain how that could bethe case . >> that's a part of my bio that i tried to not tell people because my age was something that for me was a point of shame for so many years. i didn't want to them to know how old i was and i'll explain. when i was a preteen, this is again around the time i was 10, 11, 12, 13. money was what my parents were worried about all the time . we struggled with it. we were fortunate at some point to be granted political asylum and were able to stay in the country but we struggled so much with money that my parents ended up sending back my little sister to china when my sister was, when i was 11 and a half and i was so indicated. i actually had wanted to give my sister the opportunities that i thought i had have and again, this is one of those
things i look back now and i think about the things i must have had to my mother at that time. why is she gone, don't you care and my sister was sent back to china when she was three weeks old.with my kids i cannot nimagine being apart from them when they're three years old for that time when there three weeks old and my sister was in china and so i didn't see her for that length of time and it wasn't based on or skype but i mention all this because my parents had said for financial reasons we can't razor here and i thought i want to help with these financial reasons.i don't want my parents toworry about me a drain on their resources . there was boa work-study at california state in los angeles close to where we lived in la that also have an early entry program where you contest into college. and i actually tried to channel my mother.
i thought that she contest into college having no more than a fifth grade education and studying by candlelight and working in a factory surely that's something i can do to i tested in, i started working in the lab and one of the things i recount in the book because in this one i was glad to tell the story not that the other one, i wrote the book . i got to the stories but i wanted to share this particular story because i think there are a lot of people who grow up in disadvantaged backgrounds who don't know the unwritten rules of the road. and i was one of those people . i knew i wanted to apply and become a doctor which i just didn't know how you would get there. it wasn't until i met until one of my mentors, i was fortunate to meet early on, doctor raymond garcia. they meant introduced me to their previous students who had gotten into medicalschool
, who were residents and who shared with me for example you have to take classes to improve your mcat scores. that community service that i was doing with my church and on campus could count towards community service for medical applications . these are things that i think people a lot of people around them are doctors, it's kind of intuitive but i didn't know. doctor garcia was really instrumental because i went to this large commuter school where a lot of people wanted to go into medicine but few people made it and i remember my career counselors often when i told them i wanted to go to o medical school they said you're not going to get in. there are plenty of people with your profile, your scores and everything else who apply and they applied to 40 medical schools they don't get into any. i talked to doctor garcia and he said in that case you need to apply to 41 fax schools wh