BY NHIEN NGUYEN
Recent studies show that Asian Pacific Americans are the least likely of all racial/ethnic groups to show up for a doctor’s visit, according to Asian Fortune news.
One major reason for this stems from language and cultural barriers that make it difficult to access information, to act and respond to available information, and to know how to get needed care within the health system.
With a strong desire to break down those barriers and an interest in cross-cultural medicine, Dr. Holly Peng recently joined Group Health Rainier Medical Center as a practitioner in family medicine. Peng was drawn to the center — located in the heart of Rainier Valley — for its diversity of patients, from Southeast Asians to East Africans, Chinese, Japanese, and Latinos.
“Seeing patients with a variety of cultural backgrounds makes my days more interesting,” says Peng.
Peng, 35, was born in Taiwan and came to the United States when she was four years old. At a young age, Peng knew she wanted to pursue medicine. Family medicine suits her best because she enjoys being “the first person to address medical problems and to see the whole picture.”
As a Chinese American, Peng believes that patients feel more comfortable with her as their doctor. She says, “It’s natural for people to feel more comfortable with a doctor who is very similar to them not just in appearance but also cultural background. They feel they can be more easily understood.”
With an upbringing in Asian culture, Peng understands the importance of family and family values. For doctor visits, patients from Asian backgrounds tend to bring along immediate and extended family members. Decision-making, especially for older patients, is not done on an individual basis but shared among family.
Peng is also aware of alternative and traditional Chinese medicine, making patients feel more accepted for cultural preferences when it comes to health. She understands their lifestyle, in particular foods Asian Americans eat and overall dietary habits.
With a basic knowledge of Mandarin, Peng wants to assure limited English speaking immigrants that language doesn’t have to be a barrier to seeking health care. At the Rainier Medical Center, interpreters are available to translate during visits to ease in the communication between doctor and patient.
Peng’s philosophy of care is that there is more to health than the absence of disease. She encourages her patients to maintain or achieve healthy lifestyles.
“Ultimately patients are responsible for their own health. I’m their consultant and they are coming to me for advice.”
Dr. Holly Peng is part-time at Rainier Medical Center and is currently accepting new patients, from kids to adults. Rainier Medical Center is located at 5316 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle. (206) 721-5600..