• Congratulations to the 2023-2024 SAAS Visiting Professors!
  • Zhi Fong, MD is the recipient of the 2024 SAAS Junior Faculty Award!
  • Radhika Rastogi, MD is the recipient of the 2024 Esther Tsai Sugg Award for the highest scoring SAAS abstract to 2024 Academic Surgical Congress!
  • Christy Chai, MD is the recipient of the 2024 SAAS-SUS Mid-Career Award!
  • Areeba Saif, MD is the recipient of the 2023 SAAS-AWS Resident Research Travel Award!
  • Raja Narayan, MD, MPH is the recipient of the 2023 SAAS Resident/Fellow Development Scholarship!
  • Jeremy Chang, MD is the winner of the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting Travel Award!
  • Russell Woo, MD is the recipient of the 2023 SAAS-SUS Leadership Agility Program Scholarship!

Dr. Jennifer Tseng

Jennifer Tseng, MD, MPH, is the James Utley Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at Boston University School of Medicine and surgeon-in-chief at Boston Medical Center. She is the current president of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons and one of the founding members of the Society. The Lotus Scroll sat down with Dr. Tseng to learn about her childhood and what makes this West Coast transplant and academic powerhouse tick…


LS – Thanks so much for your time. Can you start off by telling our readers about your childhood?

JT – I was born in Berkeley, California. I’m the oldest kid and my brother was born in San Jose. My parents had both come from Taiwan and were graduate students at Berkeley where they met. My mom was a biochemistry major and got her PhD in nutrition.

JT – My dad was a mechanical engineer and got a job at IBM. It was funny growing up in the Bay area, especially at that time because it was about 10 percent Asian – enough for people to make fun of you, for you to have some ambivalent ideas about whether you wanted to be Asian or something else.

LS – Herb Chen’s presidential address at the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons meeting talked about how he was the only Asian kid at his high school and even his best friend made fun of him.

JT – Absolutely. I belonged to a club that was Asian, and it was kind of cool that you weren’t singled out as Asian. Everyone was Asian, even the cute guys. On the other hand, you were kind of ashamed to belong to that kind of group.

LS – My older daughter is 11, and she comes home from school and says, “I don’t like being Asian.” I’m trying to understand if she just doesn’t like being different or doesn’t like being lumped in with the Asian stereotype.

JT – Both of my kids have the advantage or disadvantage that they don’t really look Asian. My husband’s Italian-American. My son looks a lot like I do, but he doesn’t really look Asian. There’s this funny story where he was at Little League, and he mentions that he had to go to Chinese school. The coach looks him up and down and says, “Why do you go to Chinese school?” My son says, “I’m half Chinese.” The coach says, “Which half?” And my husband says, “The inside half!”

LS – So what happened after high school?

JT – I went to Stanford and then rebelled by not majoring in Engineering.

LS – You rebel.

JT – I was! It was to this point of negotiation where if I went to Northwestern for their six-year medical program, my parents would pay all six years of tuition. If I went to Berkeley, which was significantly cheaper, my parents would pay for four years of college and the first two years of medical school. But if I went to Stanford, my parents would only pay for four years, and then I was on my own for med school.

LS – Hard bargaining.

JT – I know. But we all held up to our bargain. We all think our parents are tiger parents, but there’s only a grain of truth to that because, in retrospect, I realize that they weren’t nearly as strict as I thought they were. When you end up going to a school like Stanford, you realize that everybody, whether they’re Asian or not, has Asian parents.

LS – Tell me more about your experiences in college exploring your racial identity.

JT – In college, it wasn’t really about race. I was immersed in this intense humanities program my freshman year. Anyone who went to Stanford would roll their eyes. It was a residential dorm – you lived, breathed, and talked Dante’s Inferno. There were no other Asians in this program – why would you waste your Stanford education in a class that you’re almost certain not to get an A in?

JT – I ended up in it almost by accident because I happened to be assigned to that dorm and saw what an incredible education my roommate and my friends were getting, so I transferred in. I started out as a physics major, but I transitioned to English, with a focus on feminist studies and biology (closet pre-med). Anyway, I really did not get involved in the Asian American community in college, maybe through fleeing into the humanities. It wasn’t deliberate, but you’re trying to find your identity in different ways. You come around full circle.

LS – Can you tell our readers what’s so special about SAAS?

JT – Organizations like SAAS are amazing because they’re level, small, and you can just see the equivalent of people with their hair down. And all these department chairs come, but more importantly, the exciting mid-level brew of people that are going to do something. I think many of the non-Asians who have gone to a SAAS meeting have gotten a lot more out of it than the Asians. I do think we have something special since we are explicit in our desire to help not only Asians, but also anybody who seeks diversity in medicine and seeks networking and connections in academic medicine.

LS – And this year’s meeting is in Boston!

JT – It’s going to be great! We’re getting the food catered by Flour Bakery, and our keynote speaker is Joanne Chang. She was a math major at Harvard and worked as an analyst, and then she suddenly decided to follow her dream and now has this incredibly successful business. But it didn’t start that way. Her parents must have been like, “What are you thinking? You went to Harvard and now you’re baking?!” Can you imagine?

LS – Baking is very mathematical.

JT – Absolutely. We’re also going to have the reception on Thursday night at Anoush’ella, a Lebanese restaurant two blocks from here. Then, the party on Friday night will be at my house, which is very convenient.

LS – How on earth are you going to do that?!

JT – It’ll work. We had our department Christmas party there. September will be great because people can go outside. Bernard’s (Chinese) Restaurant will cater. Even my mom loves it.

LS – Can’t wait to see everyone in Boston at Dr. Tseng’s house!

Archives

SAAS Foundation 2024-2025 Visiting Professorships

Congratulations to the 2024-2025 SAAS Visiting Professors, as well as our other recent award and accolade recipients: Drs. Oliver Eng, Annabelle Fonseca, Kevin Koo, Tammy Holm, Victoria Lai, Melanie Ongchin, James Wu, Jessica Zagory, Zhi Ven Fong, Christy Yoon-Hee Chai, Lillian Kao, Sandra Wong, Danny Chu, and Brenessa Lindeman.

An Ultimate Challenge to the Palate

SAAS members attend a Japanese whiskey tasting fundraiser, hosted by Dr. Herbert Chen at the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

A Sansei’s Story

General Surgery Resident Natalie Nadia Hisae Merchant, MD, discusses lessons learned from her family and their history and how they have influenced her experiences, identity and perspective.

SAAS Sips Recap: Acing the Residency Interview

The SAAS Sips for Medical Students Series is a casual, low-stress setting for trainees to interact with SAAS leaders. The Nov. 2, 2023, event focused on “Acing the Residency Interview.”

Kuo Family Lectureship: Jason Kalirai, PhD

This year’s Kuo Family Lecture was given by Jason Kalirai, PhD, at the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting. Dr Kalirai is the Mission Area Executive for Civil Space in the Space Exploration Sector of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

SAAS 2023 Presidential Address: Susan Tsai, MD, MHS

Susan Tsai, MD, MHS, delivered her Presidential Address to the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons at the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting, titled “Navigating the Bamboo Ceiling: Empowering AAPI Surgeons for Success.”

SAAS Leadership Highlights

Congratulations to our members for their recent accomplishments, including Dr. Mayur B. Patel who has been named Chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

A Moment with SAAS: Herbert Chen

This season’s “A Moment with SAAS” features one of our founding members, Dr. Herbert Chen, chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

SAAS Leadership Highlights

SAAS congratulates Drs. Kenric Murayama, Thomas Varghese, Ankush Gosain, Shaun Kunisaki, and Vikas Dudeja for their recent accomplishments.

Medical Student Student Reflections

Medical students Gopika SenthilKumar and Nate Verhagen attended their first SAAS meeting in September and said the meeting offered a place for trainees to build new, lasting relationships.

Kuo Family Lectureship: Debbie Lum

“Why do we always have to play the side part? Why aren’t we the protagonist of the story?” asks award-winning filmmaker Debbie Lum at this year’s 2022 Kuo Family Lectureship.

Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship: David Hu

The 2022 Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship was delivered by Professor David Hu from Georgia Institute of Technology. David Hu is a professor of mechanical engineering who draws inspiration from his observation of nature.

Sustainability in Surgery

Connie Shao, MD, discusses the importance of sustainability in surgery in this issue of the Lotus Scroll.

SAAS Leadership Highlights

The Society of Asian Academic Surgeons would like to congratulate our members on their many recent accomplishments.

President’s Message: December 2021

SAAS President Dr. Allan Tsung discusses this year’s SAAS annual meeting, the pandemic and the future of the society in his December 2021 President’s Message.

The Sequelae of Hate

Dr. Lindsey Zhang discusses the recent rise in hate crimes, racial discrimination and violence toward the Asian American community.

Q&A: Dr. George Yang

The Lotus Scroll interviews George Yang, MD, PhD, former president of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons.

SAAS Foundation 2018-2019 Visiting Professorships

Congratulations to the 2018-2019 SAAS Foundation Visiting Professors! SAAS Foundation Visiting Professorships support travel to host institutions for junior faculty to give grand rounds and increase the national visibility of rising stars in academic surgery.

SAAS on Twitter!

This year, SAAS was active more than ever on Twitter! In addition to updates and announcements, more content was created for our followers to improve engagement, highlight issues and events important to our society and members, and promote the activities at SAAS.

SAAS Executive Council: Message on the Rise of Racism

First, as the current pandemic continues to affect our communities and families, we want to express our profound gratitude to our surgical colleagues and to all healthcare professionals who are the frontlines of caring for patients with the SARS-CoV2 virus/COVID-19.

Q&A: Dr. Kenric Murayama

The Lotus Scroll is honored to interview Kenric Murayama, MD, this year’s host of the SAAS Annual Meeting.

President’s Message: December 2019

SAAS President Dr. Tracy Wang discusses how far the Society has come and what’s in store for 2020 in her December 2019 President’s Message.

SAAS 2019 Meeting Recap

SAAS held its 2019 Annual Meeting at the Boston Medical Center, Sept. 26-27, with more than 148 scientific presentations and breakout sessions.

SAAS 2019 Meeting Highlights

The fourth annual meeting of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, Sept. 26-27, 2019, and promises to be an incredibly fun, impactful and meaningful gathering of academic surgeons, trainees and students from both the U.S. and abroad.

Welcome to the Lotus Scroll

Welcome to the launch of Lotus Scroll, the official newsletter of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons (SAAS). Through the Lotus Scroll, we are excited to distribute and enhance the vision of SAAS: to promote diversity and inclusion in academic surgery through the sponsorship and development of its leaders.