The Best Medicine
Katherine Yun, Albert Chi, Jessica Pang-Chi, and Sonia Jarrett are International School of Beijing (ISB) alumni who were brought together through their work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). We caught up with Katherine Yun, Jessica Pang-Chi, and Albert Chi to find out how four Dragons found each other through one of the largest, oldest, and best-ranked children's hospitals in the world.
Katherine Yun is a pediatrician and researcher at CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). Katherine divides her time between PolicyLab (a research center at CHOP which focuses on improving practice and policies relevant to child health), the Refugee Health Program, and CHOP's primary care site in South Philadelphia. “Every day is a little bit different,” she said. “I spend a lot of time studying health care for refugee and immigrant children. For example, we've recently learned that many refugee families in Philadelphia don't feel confident calling 911, which means there is a potentially dangerous gap in access to emergency medical care.” She also supervises students from UPenn and pediatric trainees working on refugee or immigrant health projects and provides primary health care for refugee and immigrant children, as well as other children in Philadelphia. “I'm grateful to be part of a team of people who are dedicated to making healthcare fair and equitable for all children, including those who are immigrants or who are still learning English,” she said.
After college, Katherine was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan where she taught English at a school in the far western part of the country. This she followed with a public health research internship, medical school, pediatric residency and a research fellowship at Yale, where she focused on healthcare for refugees and immigrants. She credits ISB with setting her on the path to a life of global-mindedness and service. “Attending ISB and living in China helped me feel comfortable working with patients from all over the world,” she said. “One of the best parts of my job is that I continue learning about different countries, cultures, and languages. I think many ISB alumni have also carried forward a sense of social responsibility.
Jessica Pang-Chi is a primary care pediatrician at Greater Philadelphia Health Action (GPHA). She works at the Chinatown Medical Services clinic which serves a primarily Chinese speaking immigrant population, so most of her day is conducted through Chinese. “My workday is full of seeing healthy and sick children, which is so much fun,” she said. After ISB, Jessica went to Harvard University for college, then Boston University for medical school. She did her three-year residency training in pediatrics at CHOP, graduating in 2015, and since then working for GPHA's health center in Chinatown.
Jessica’s husband, Albert Chi works in quality improvement as the Director of Clinical Data and Analytics at CHOP. Jessica and Albert met at ISB and dated long distance throughout college; this year they will celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Albert attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and then went into technology consulting with Accenture. “While Jessica was training to become a physician, I realized that healthcare was a fascinating industry undergoing a major change and wanted to participate,” he said. “With that, I did my MBA part-time at Boston University and after we both graduated from our graduate programs, moved to Philadelphia and both of us started working at CHOP.” Albert's work involves meetings between clinicians in the hospital and his team to make sure the quality of care delivered at the hospital is measurably improving. He says that attending ISB, where diversity was the norm, was great preparation for leading one of the most culturally diverse teams at the hospital.
As part of Jessica’s pediatrics training, she spent some time at the CHOP Refugee Health Program, where Katherine is one of the attending physicians. “During the introduction to the program she asked if anyone had any experience overseas,” said Jessica. “As we talked more, we discovered that we had both graduated from ISB!” Katherine introduced Jessica to a community health center in Philadelphia staffed with many Chinese/English bilingual staff, and eventually, this led to Jessica’s current role. It was Katherine who once more found the ISB connection, this time with Sonia Jarrett, currently a pediatric resident at CHOP. “A few years later Kate emailed to say she met another ISB alumni,” said Jessica. “And that is how we met Sonia!”
Jessica attended both the Lido and Shunyi campuses and has many fond memories of her time at ISB, such as China Studies trips, student council, MUN trips, and most of all the friends she made. Lasting friendships are also a strong component of Katherine’s alumni experience. She keeps in touch with many of her ISB classmates; seeing each other in person or keeping in touch online. “Even all these years later, friends from ISB have been a source of encouragement and advice as my husband and I go through the ups and downs of parenting,” said Katherine. “We also stay connected online in memory of Charles Hwa, a smart, funny and kind 1996 graduate who died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2012. He was a good friend to many people both in our class and the classes below ours.”
Jessica’s funniest memory from ISB days took place in David Beckstead's IB Higher Level chemistry class. “His first test was so hard that we all did poorly,” said Jessica. “On the day he returned the tests, he sat down at the front of the class and put on safety goggles and put up a plastic shield on his desk. He said it was for protection in case we started throwing things at him for giving us an unfairly difficult test.” Katherine would like to apologize to Mr. Greenblatt and says the degree to which she was unsuited to the clarinet is, in retrospect, quite amusing. Albert is grateful to Ms. Hway Anichowski, who was his Chinese teacher and whom he still keeps in touch with, and whom he said “always put up with my antics!”
Katherine says she was lucky to have many such great and patient teachers while at the school. She graduated high school an avid reader with a lot of curiosity about the world and she appreciates ISB’s philosophy of whole-child development, which meant she never felt pigeonholed. “At ISB I could be enthusiastic about a lot of things at once - model UN, poetry, sports, martial arts, music, and science,” Katherine said. “I don't think I was a particularly mature teenager, and peers and teachers at ISB gave me the benefit of the doubt and a chance to grow and learn. As an adult, I try to remember this, extend the same grace to others and take responsibility for making the world a little better.”