September 11 Digital Archive

Dr. Blanche Leung


Dr. Blanche Leung



Media Type


Chinatown Interview: Interviewee

Dr. Blanche Leung

Chinatown Interview: Interviewer

Ingrid Dudek

Chinatown Interview: Date


Chinatown Interview: Language


Chinatown Interview: Occupation

Dr. in Chinatown

Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)

Q: This is the Chinatown Documentation Project, I am Ingrid Dudek, and let's get started. Could you start just by stating your name, your date of birth, where you were born?

Leung: Sure. Do you want my title as well? [Laughs] Blanche Leung, M.D. Born April 16, 1970, and born in New York City, New York.

Q: Were you born in Chinatown?

Leung: No, actually I was born in Queens.

Q: Is that where you grew up?

Leung: Yes. I grew up in Elmhurst, Queens.

Q: Okay. And your parents?

Leung: My parents actually emigrated from -- my mother from Hong Kong and my father from Canton, China.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about their emigration experiences as you know it?

Leung: Sure. Sure. As far as I remember, from the history, my mother grew up in Hong Kong. She actually had come over with her family from China. They had lived there initially until the Communists came. So they fled China and went to Hong Kong. My father also grew up in China, and for a period of time he also went to Hong Kong. They both ended up going to Taiwan University, and from there they went to Canada. And from there they came to the United States.

Q: About what time, then, were they going from Hong Kong to Taiwan?

Leung: The exact time I'm not quite sure. I know at least four -- they were in university, I guess. How long ago? That'd be quite a guess. Maybe forty, forty-five years ago. When they were in university. When they went up to Hong Kong I think my mother was about four or five. My father was a little bit older then. Maybe in his early teens.

Q: So it probably would have been the 60's, maybe.

Leung: Yes. Roundabout there. No, actually, I'm sorry. When did they come -- probably even earlier than that. Perhaps in the mid-forties.

Q: When they first went to Hong Kong --

Leung: Yes.

Q: Probably after the Civil War or during the Civil War.

Leung: Right. Right.

Q: And then when did they meet?

Leung: Well, they actually were in the same village, or relatively nearby in villages. So that's how they knew each other. The families knew each other, and when they went to university they met up again. Just due to the similarity of, I guess, background.

Q: And then when did they come here -- or Canada and then here?

Leung: Let me see. I think they went over to Canada in the 60's. That's when they went to Canada. And to the United States, they came in the late sixties. Because I was born here in 1970. [Laughs] They were here I think at least for about a year. So in 1969 they probably came over.

Q: And what do your parents do?

Leung: My father is a retired pharmacist, and actually he had his own pharmacy right near my office for a good twenty years. He retired about five years ago. And my mother is a hematology lab manager at Beth Israel, currently.

Q: Did your entire family come over at that time, or their families, or just your parents?

Leung: Just my parents. My mother is one of seven siblings, so she has another sister who is -- I'm sorry -- the second sister -- my mother's the third in the family -- her second sister came to California, and that I don't know exactly when she came over. But I think they were already here in the 60's, by then. She has also, her youngest sister, the seventh in the family, who came over [laughs] for college, and she settled in San Diego. But most of the family stayed in Hong Kong, and since, again, the Communist changeover with Hong Kong in 1997, a lot of the family has come over to Canada, actually. [Laughs] But --

Q: They weren't too excited about the handover?

Leung: No, not really. Because my mother's oldist sister still resides in Hong Kong.

Q: Does your family go back at all? Do you go back?

Leung: Haven't gone back to Hong Kong in many years. I went back when I was nine years old. It was beautiful then. And I hear now it's just as busy and just as cosmopolitan as New York City.

Q: So growing up, you were in Queens.

Leung: Yes.

Q: And your father had a pharmacy down here.

Leung: Yes, he had a pharmacy -- yes, he started when I was nine years old. And I helped out every so often. [Laughs]

Q: Where was the pharmacy?

Leung: It was located on Lafayette Street and Walker Street. Right on the corner.

Q: So when you were helping out, what kind of memories do you have of that? Or of Chinatown early on?

Leung: Well, you know, the pharmacy is actually on the edge of Chinatown. At that time, in the late 70's and early 80's Chinatown was more clustered around maybe about a block or two from the pharmacy. But it has since grown quite remarkably. But what I remember, just shopping with my mom for fresh fish, fruits. I used to go to a Ping Pong club, which is a converted firehouse, which is again down the block. [Laughs] For maybe about three or four years. And other than that -- it was really busy. I remember it was always very busy. Maybe a little bit smelly. But -- and I also went to Chinese School. For six years. If you don't count kindergarten -- I guess that would make it about seven. [Laughs] I did it every Saturday. Which I dreaded. But now I actually am quite grateful that I completed it. [Laughs] Some training in my own native tongue.

Q: Was it Cantonese?

Leung: Yes. Primarily I learned Cantonese. Although they offered Mandarin courses as well.

Q: So was there any kind of Chinese community in Elmhurst where you were growing up?

Leung: No, not really. Where we lived I think we were the only Chinese family on that block. Mostly Europeans, older Europeans, grandmothers and grandfathers, settled in that area. And then, as I was growing up, a lot of the families either moved south, to Florida, or -- and more different families started moving in. So it became more a melting pot. So Elmhurst now has a diverse group of people. Not only Asians -- it's mostly Chinese in terms of the Asian population. But also there's a lot of Hispanics there. Also some Russians, and Greeks. So it's quite an interesting mix of people.

Q: So Chinatown, then, growing up for you was kind of a family destination in terms of community and family?

Leung: Yes. Absolutely. Because of my father's pharmacy here. My mother would also help run the pharmacy. She, of course, maintained a full time job as well. So she would come after work to help my father. And I would come on the weekends and help out with the inventory and pricing and such like that.

Q: Was it mostly Chinese clientele, do you recall, or what was it?

Leung: I think -- there wasn't too many, in terms of Chinese patients, because it's right on the edge, and we're near a lot of the courts here. So he had more of the police officers, the judges, so not so much the Chinese. But since his pharmacy was there, it actually built up a -- I guess it helped in terms of expanding Chinatown. So that there was more movement in that direction. So now, more so than before. Definitely.

Q: And did he close the pharmacy when he retired?

Leung: Yes, he closed the pharmacy when he retired.

Q: I just want to back up a little bit. I wonder if you could tell me more about different the things that you did in Chinatown, because you mentioned the Ping Pong club --

Leung: Yes. [Laughs]

Q: -- and Chinese school. What was that like for you?

Leung: Well, let's see. My earliest memories of -- well, we can do Chinese school first, because I started off with that. I remember that I was perhaps the crybaby in the group, because I required my mother to stand near the door to keep me company while I endured kindergarten. In Chinese. Which actually wasn't much, in terms of learning your language, but, you know, it's more of a social interaction situation. Because of the fact that, where I lived, there was a small group of children who were of Asian descent. And mostly Chinese, actually.

In fact -- yes. Mostly Chinese. Out of a group of five kids in my class, let's say -- there were eight grades altogether -- about six or seven were Asian, one was perhaps Korean, the rest of us were Chinese. But coming to Chinatown, at least it gave me a lot more exposure to the Chinese community. Which my parents felt it was very important. They certainly wanted me to be able to converse in my native tongue. And, my parents do speak English, also, so I could get away with just speaking English with them. But they insisted on me going to school, which I am, again, forever grateful to them for that. And I was introduced to the characters, the language. The culture, not so much. From what I remember of Chinese school, you know, there's not much -- we don't have field trips. We would just go and learn just how to speak, and write it. And memorization was perhaps the bane of my existence. Because that's what they liked to do, wrote memorization of stories, basically. So it was a little bit of learning of culture there, but it was very tedious. To say the least.

Q: So it was the kind of thing that parents maybe wanted their children to do to facilitate communication in the home? And also --

Leung: Yes. Yes, I would think so. I think most of the people that I knew, the students there in Chinese school, they had parents who also had just come over to the United States. Or they were the -- their parents were the first in the generation to come to the United States. And we were the first generation born here in the United States. So it was important for our parents, at least, that the children not only know their language, but at least know their culture. So --

Q: And those children also came from New York City boroughs?

Leung: I think from all boroughs, yes. I never really delved too much into it. It's interesting. My friendships with schoolmates, let's say, from my English classes, I was much closer to them than Chinese school. Because it's only once a week that we get to meet each other. So we didn't form really strong bonds. Unfortunately. Unless you live in Chinatown. And I didn't, so --

Q: How many years was that -- Chinese school?

Leung: Chinese school was six years, from first grade to sixth. And you could continue past that, but I think I -- at that time I had enough, to tell you the truth.

Q: What other activities and sort of impressions do you have of Chinatown from growing up?

Leung: I was mostly on the outskirts of Chinatown. If anything, Chinatown was a place for me to, well, go to the Ping Pong club -- that was mostly because my mother felt that I was too thin and didn't have enough exercise. And therefore needed a little something to, I guess, bulk me up. [Laughs] So she wanted me to learn a sport, and I guess Ping Pong was -- as opposed to basketball or baseball or things like that, or volleyball, she encouraged me to do that. And also it was very close by to my father's pharmacy so they can keep a close eye on me.

Q: That's convenient.

Leung: Yeah, it is pretty convenient.

Q: To jump forward just a little bit, because your practice now is in Chinatown, so at what point would you say you developed a different kind of commitment or different kind of relationship to Chinatown?

Leung: Well, I have to say, definitely during my training as a medical student, and then as an intern and resident training in medicine. I felt that there was definitely a need to be a liaison, in a way, to the people in my culture, because I've seen in the hospitals where there are sick Chinese patients who don't say much of anything. And we're known for -- what's the word? I can think of it in Chinese, but I'm having difficulty trying to say it in English. We take a lot, basically. We don't -- we're not very vocal about being uncomfortable, in pain, and also that communication barrier is a major issue. And I remember going into some of these rooms and speaking to the patient, and they suddenly just light up, because someone can speak their language. And they converse just like normal people. They're not so stoic. It's just a matter of finding somebody who has the right communication key. And I found that I could do something, at least in that respect. Finding this place here is -- I love working in Chinatown. Truly. Because of the patient population. Most of my patients -- a lot of my patients -- are elderly. And to me they're like grandma and grandpa coming in. They're always concerned about my health [laughs], and they bring nice little goodies to make sure that we don't look like we're starved, or overworked. They're a very kind group of people, very caring. And I feel that I can give so much to them. And I'm happy to be able to converse with them, also, and take care of them.

Q: Where did you go to medical school? What was your training?

Leung: I went to NYU School of Medicine. I entered in 1992 and I graduated in 1996. Subsequently I did my residency, my internship and residency, also at New York University -- the Medical Center. And then I had my training in Bellevue Hospital, which sees a lot of Chinese patients, mostly because they don't have insurance. So they go to Bellevue Hospital for some care. The private hospital that's associated with NYU -- affiliated with NYU -- is Tisch Hospital. There are not so many patients there that are Chinese. However, since I've graduated and become an attending, there are a lot more Chinese speaking patients there. Definitely.

Q: And your experience at Bellevue was when you sort of had this sense of a community need?

Leung: Yes, definitely. When I was an intern and resident I definitely saw a lot of patients who sort of were wallowing in the shadows. They were getting medical care, but in terms of an emotional connection to their physicians, or to health care workers, there wasn't too much there. At least, I felt -- it's not that the staff didn't care. It's just, they couldn't communicate well enough with them. So, and of course, I would try to help whenever I could. If they ever needed a translator they'd run to one of us who could speak the language. And I was happy to help.

Q: And the decision to pursue a medical career, this came sort of naturally out of your family experience? How did your parents respond?

Leung: Well, I do fit into that stereotype of the parents strongly encouraging a pursuit in the medical profession. It also was influenced by the fact that both my parents had experience in the medical field, my father being a pharmacist and my mother having managed -- now she manages the hematology laboratory at Beth Israel. So, yeah, you can say it was placed in my head, the idea. At least when I was very, very young I got a full set of a medical encyclopedia -- 1973. [Laughs] A full set. I forget how many volumes. But luckily for my parents, I actually enjoy it. [Laughs] Although it is a long haul.

Q: And can you talk a bit about being a Chinese woman in the medical profession, especially since your mother is a doctor and you are too?

Leung: Oh, my mother's not actually a physician. No, she's not. She is -- she originally was a laboratory technician, and she worked her way up, and is now in the managerial position at Beth Israel. But as a Chinese female physician, I didn't feel any different, I don't think, than anybody else training. Except for, it's not just being Chinese, but just being female. [Laughs] Where, as a physician it's not quite evident to some patients that I am one. And we tend to, I guess, look a little younger than other people, I suppose. So a lot of patients assume that we're nurses or nurses' aide, and staff, but not as physicians. So every so often I get mistaken, not to be a physician. So I try to grin and bear it as graciously as possible. [Laughs] Despite the fact that I've spent a lot of years trying to pursue, you know, my career as a physician, so -- but do you want to be a little more specific as to -- ?

Q: No. I'm just wondering if you have a particular perspective on it, if you feel it's a male dominated field specifically or --

Leung: Certain -- I think yes. It still is a male dominated field. But women are making more of an impact, certainly in our training classes, I guess, during residency. There are more female physicians than before. At least, I'd like to think so. But I think the ratio is still not fifty-fifty. I can't say I've experienced any major discrimination, fortunately [laughs] that I can think of. And nothing certainly that would cause me to be -- to feel that there's some injustice that needs to be immediately rectified. However, it'd be nice to see more Chinese female physicians, or just female physicians in general, in areas of administration. Because I think it's important to see that in society.

Q: I wonder, to talk a little bit more, you touched on it briefly, about the kind of resources available to Chinese speaking patients. Can you talk a bit about the kind of clients you see here, generally, and specifically the Chinese clients? Maybe do you have clients that don't have insurance, or things like this?

Leung: In terms of the resources that are available to the Chinese community here, I know that a lot of the pharmaceutical companies have tried to help the community in terms of getting information, medical and health information, across to the community. It's a very concentrated population here in Chinatown. Certainly, nowadays, I see more diabetes and hypertension in this population. And considering that we're not usually, or generally, obese, as a group, it's a bit concerning. So some of the pharmaceutical companies have taken it upon themselves to try to translate some of their material into Chinese, and I find it extremely helpful. But a lot of times patients just want to be treated, not necessarily educated. And some of them don't even read Chinese. So that becomes a problem, too. But I feel it's really important for my patients to understand what the disease process is, and why we're treating them with the medications. Because it becomes helpful later on to other people who may need to help them with treatment. And they're able to converse about the disease. But the resources in the community -- there is, also, the Chinatown Health Community, a center, which caters to people who don't have insurance. I'm not too familiar with their procedures, but I know that they have that available. And certainly NYU Downtown Hospital, which is formally Beekman Hospital, does cater to the Chinese community and try to be as accessible as possible by having bilingual or even trilingual signs for patients, in Spanish and Chinese, so they can navigate a little bit better.

Q: What is your general practice here? Is it family practice?

Leung: Well, I'm in internal medicine. Family practice encompasses a much larger group of people, so I actually just work with adult patients. That means age eighteen and above. And most of my patients are elderly, but I do have a group of young healthy patients who come in, and it ranges from all economic levels as well. And all walks of life. It's quite -- relatively diverse. I wouldn't say that it's concentrated in one particular area. So it's a nice group of patients that I have.

Q: And they come here because they live locally?

Leung: A lot of them do, yes. Some patients, they live further away, but by word of mouth -- I'm grateful to this, as well -- they come and see me, because I see their friends or maybe their family members. Like I've seen their grandchild, and now she wants grandma to be taken care of by me, so that's how I have some of my referrals.

Q: Then I'm wondering what kind of picture of Chinatown as a community you would paint from the perspective of your practice, in terms of diversity, age, economic background --

Leung: Oh, it's an extremely diverse group. For the density of the population here it's a really, really diverse group. In such a small area, too. It's quite amazing. Which is probably why they're expanding a little bit more, down south, and down -- east or west? [Laughs]

Q: So you get a whole range of ages and economic backgrounds.

Leung: Absolutely.

Q: I'd also like to talk a little bit about your 9/11 experiences and your perspective on Chinatown post 9/11. Where were you on September 11th? Were you here?

Leung: No. I hadn't even gotten down to Chinatown. It was a day that I was scheduled to come down to Chinatown. And I was actually at the [NYU] Medical Center. I was attending a conference. And after the conference let out, I remember, it was a little bit before nine o'clock, and going into the doctor's lounge several of my colleagues were mentioning that there was some kind of commotion going on. Let me back up a little bit. Even when we were in the conference, towards the end of the conference an announcement was made to us, and it was stated that anyone who needs to go downtown cannot travel by the FDR. There was no mention made about trains. And then I went to the doctor's lounge, and my colleagues were saying to me that -- one actually was playing tennis and had seen -- some planes had flown by, and then he found out later that there was -- that the towers were hit. The twin towers were hit by airplanes. Soon enough we realized that we couldn't communicate with anybody. And actually, I had gone into the hospital, further up into the hospital to see some of my patients, and while I was there I actually saw, I believe it was probably the second tower fall. And it was so terrible, just to see that. So many people were in tears, just watching that. And really heart wrenching to see. Even brings tears to my eyes now.

Q: No, it's clearly difficult for a lot of people to talk about --

Leung: Right. Definitely.

Q: What happened next for you?

Leung: Well, I went to see my patients. [Laughs] And thereafter, I had gone down to the ground area, and it was -- outside the hospital it was all chaos. I was trying -- first I had to figure out what was going on in Chinatown. Because we had our secretaries who were supposed to -- they actually, I believe they came in. And it was a matter of trying to get them safe home. Obviously we had to close the office. And we were concerned about how to contact our patients, but at that point in time I think everybody realized that we weren't having office hours, so -- and then it was a matter of dispensing aid locally. The hospital, the ER, had a lot of physicians already. There were too many physicians. So a lot of us were, you know, were told to just go away [laughs] and if we were needed they would contact us, so -- so I went to my office, in the midtown area, just to check to see what was going on there, try to contact whoever we needed to. Our secretaries were safe, and then it was a matter of getting to a safe place. Wherever that may be. I remember it was all chaos on the east side, because I did walk a little bit further west just to see what was going on there. And on the west side, it was almost a ghost town. Because everyone had traveled -- started to travel east, and they were trying to get across to Queens and whatnot. And one of my secretaries had to walk from 37th Street, across the Brooklyn Bridge, to get home. She survived that. I'm glad she did. It was -- it was incredible. Incredible.

Q: And where were you living at the time?

Leung: I was living in the Bronx. So I had to find my way. Either I could stay in the city which, at the time, was not the most pleasant thought if there was going to be another attack. However, if need be, I'll stay in the office. But I somehow managed to go over to Queens. Because my parents were in Queens, and I was concerned about them. My mother was in Manhattan, and she says she was running the hematology lab. She was -- she stayed. Because she had to oversee whatever was coming through. I don't think Beth Israel was hit much. It was mostly St. Vincent's, which was closest to the site. And my father was home safe, fortunately.

I was able to travel into Queens on the ferry, which I never paid attention to and didn't quite realize it was there. But then I was stuck in Long Island City, and no trains were running, and no cars, and certainly nobody to call. And there was a good Samaritan who had a jeep, and she stopped and said, 'Anybody want to go to where we're going? I'll drop you off wherever I can.' So she took a few of us, and dropped us off. So I just walked back to my parents' home, just to make sure they were doing okay.


Q: What was the mood downtown, in Chinatown, in the aftermath?

Leung: Yeah. Chinatown was extremely quiet after that. Usually you see a lot of hustle and bustle. You can never walk anywhere without stepping on someone’s toes. And then we had come back aI guess I don’t remember how many days we were closed maybe a couple days. We got down and there was barely anybody walking. No deliveries being made. It was kind of sad to see. It changed the community so much. But they recovered. Slowly, there were more people coming around again, consider it a place to see, of course, in New York. And it's been almost three years since then.

Q: When did you have a sense that Chinatown returned to a kind of normalcy, or it felt familiar again?

Leung: It probably took a few months to recover. Exactly when, I don't know. I don't think I was paying attention to it too much. Our patients continued to come, though. In the beginning there were a lot of requests for air purifiers, because there was -- I think by word of mouth, certainly there was no posting or listing that I know of, that there were air purifiers being given our to the community with a doctor's prescription. So I wrote them out for my patients so that they can obtain it. Other than that, I don't see any major impact on the health community in terms of outreach as a result of 9/11. I think I'm a little more sensitive to people with respiratory complaints nowadays, because I've noticed that there are a lot more respiratory complaints now than before. Whether or not it is due to 9/11 I really don't know. But I don't see any major changes in terms of the outreach.

Q: So you already had your Chinatown practice at that point?

Leung: Yes. Yes.

Q: But you didn't see any major effects in terms of health from your clients or patients at that point?

Leung: Major effects on my patients' health -- not really. Not a significant impact. But, you know, the only thing I recall is just air purifiers, to tell you the truth. Other than that, not much of anything else. Speaking to my colleagues who also have Chinatown practices, they don't recall any other programs that were set up specifically to address that. I have seen a few cases of, perhaps, post traumatic stress associated with 9/11 attacks, which is understandable. But it's not a large portion of my patient population.

Q: So people were looking for the purifiers -- ?

Leung: Yeah, interestingly enough. The Chinese community is a very closed community when it comes to mental health. There's not been much in terms of complaints or concerns from my patients regarding that. And specifically asking them about will not draw much in terms of positive responses, anyway. They usually belittle

it and say, well, it's maybe fatigue and whatnot. So in terms of a clear diagnosis of the emotional impact of 9/11, I can't say that I've been able to get a good handle on that.

Q: It's interesting, because studies have claimed that Asian cultures attribute emotional stress to physical ailments more often, and is that something you feel tends to happen with your clients, maybe?

Leung: I'm sorry. Say that again.

Q: In the sense that rather than saying, 'I'm depressed', you have back pain. Or it sort of gets displaced that way.

Leung: It's possible. I think, in general, the Chinese do internalize a lot of the emotions. We're not very vocal about it. So perhaps it is converted, so to speak, into physical ailments. That's a possibility. Definitely is a possibility. Not that I've seen it too much, though, in my practice. Or I'm not really actively looking for it, so it's kind of hard to find.

Q: And you haven't seen necessarily, for example, your elderly patients with increased respiratory problems, or it's hard to measure at this stage?

Leung: I personally feel that I've become more short of breath lately. So -- but I wasn't even in the direct area.

I was thirty blocks up. More than that. But I feel that my health has been a little different from what I usually feel, so I can just imagine the people who live here in Chinatown probably have even more symptoms, because they were close by. I do recall some of my patients saying that the smell of the debris lingered for days and days on end. It took months for it to clear. And I come down to this office about three times a week, so -- although brief, but it probably had some effect. But in terms of trying to ferret it out in my patients -- I tend to think that maybe there is an increase in respiratory complaints. But scientifically, I don't whether or not they're just -- I mean, statistically speaking, I don't know whether or not it really is an increase, or it's the status quo.

Q: But because it seems there have been different initiatives targeted towards downtown residents, some of them Chinatown specific, some of them not, but you don't have a sense of that necessarily getting through to your patients?

Leung: I don't specifically ask them. I'm sure that there are programs, but I'm not terribly aware of them.

I haven't had patients ask me, specifically, about programs available. Specifically post 9/11 programs. So

I don't know if they're aware of them through the newspaper. I don't read the Chinese newspaper, though. So

I can't say that I've actually seen them. So they might have been posted, but I'm not -- I don't know about them.

Q: Do you have a sense, then, that Chinatown has rebounded since 9/11?

Leung: Yes. I think Chinatown has somewhat recovered from that. There are definitely a lot more people walking around nowadays, and I'm practically stepping on everybody else's toes. [Laughs] So it's nice to see that Chinatown is still up and kicking. Alive and kicking, rather. And -- yeah, I think they recovered. To some degree. But I know -- at least, looking at some of the newspapers -- there are still, the impact of 9/11, still present. Especially around Park Row. In the newspaper today there are -- I believe there is legal action that has been started regarding that area. Because businesses have closed as a result of barricading those areas. So there's still a lasting impact, despite the attempt to safeguard the people. So --

Q: I'm wondering, too, given the scale of your parents' initial investment in Chinatown when your father had a pharmacy, and your experiences then, and now with your position with a practice in Chinatown, what do you see as your future -- personal or professional --in relation to Chinatown?

[cell phone]

Q: I just wanted to repeat the question. Given your parents' and your father's initial place in Chinatown, with his pharmacy, and your experience early on, and now later you have a practice here. I'm wondering how you view your position in Chinatown in the future, or where you see yourself.

Leung: I definitely see myself continuing my practice in Chinatown. I love being here. I love the patient population. I feel that I do fill a void, in a way, I suppose -- that I am here with my peers, who are also Chinese,

caring for our people. It's always a good feeling when you can do something like that.

Q: Does that feel also more common now? I mean, are there lots of Chinese-run medical practices in Chinatown?

Leung: That's a good question. Not necessarily. I don't think so. However, I think physicians who are graduating, newly graduated of physicians [clearing throat] -- sorry -- are aware of Chinatown as a possible place to start their practice, or to train further, I suppose. You know, I don't actually ask my colleagues about that. But most of the practices here in Chinatown try to seek out similar types of physicians, because it's a little unusual to have people who don't speak the language practice here. Not that it doesn't exist. There are certainly physicians who are not Chinese, and who don't speak Chinese, who have their practices here. Not every day, but at least once or twice a week. So. Certainly we do need another orthopedic surgeon down in Chinatown. I think we overwhelmed one of them who is here. [Laughs] I think he's the only one here. But there's a lot of room for growth. There's a lot of patients here who need physicians, in all specialties. So, there's a lot of room to grow.

Q: Well, I guess I asked that because it seems to be one of the trends, is almost the reverse of what you've

done. That people who've maybe grown up in Chinatown tend to move out and away. And rather than doing that, you've actually gravitated here, to provide something for the community.

Leung: Interestingly enough, I guess because I grew up a little bit in Chinatown -- it was mostly weekends, and sometimes after school when I was in high school, coming to Chinatown -- at first, I didn't like it so much, that I had to come here, to Chinatown. But there is a comfort level for me, to be in Chinatown. Interestingly enough. I've never really consciously thought about it, but I feel very comfortable. And I feel needed, and wanted, and I think I have services that I can provide. So that's why I came back to Chinatown. And I think I'm going to stay. [Laughs] For as long as they need me.

Q: What is your sense, then, of Chinatown as a growing and changing community? Because there's always some political or other kinds of concerns about the way the demographics change, or the way the city relates to Chinatown as a neighborhood. What is your sense of that, in terms of your position here? I mean, it'll remain a kind of viable community for your practice -- ?

Leung: Absolutely. There's always a core group of people, I think, that are going to stay in Chinatown. Granted that there are smaller versions that are developing in different parts of the city. Certainly in Elmhurst there's one that's growing. In Flushing there's a huge population, that's slowly growing. But Chinatown is its origin in terms of New York City, Chinese heritage I guess -- it all started in Chinatown. And I think most people do end up coming here. For some, maybe a short period of time, but there's a lot -- there may be a lot of turnover now, I don't know exactly what the demographics are, and how they're going to change. But I think this is the base. And, from here, it branches out. So I think it'll always be here. At least I hope it'll be here -- during my lifetime, at least.

Q: It would be really interesting to see how the demographics of your practice change as a kind of measurement of that.

Leung: Well, I'm certainly going to be here. And I guess -- I won't change too much, in terms of I don't think I'm going to move to another location. Unless the rent requires it [laughs]. However, certainly my patient population can change over time. It's hard to predict, in terms of what political climate it's going to be, environmental climate, nowadays. So -- there may be change later on, but it's been here long enough. So I think it'll probably weather -- 'it' meaning Chinatown -- will probably weather the changes and still be here. I really think it'll still be here.

Q: Well, thank you very much. I don't want to take up too much more of your time.

Leung: Thank you.


Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)

<p> 問﹕ 這是華埠文獻計劃,我是英格里德.杜特,好,現在開始,你可否告訴我你的名字、出生日期,在那裡出生﹖</p>
<p>梁﹕當然可以,你要我講名銜嗎 [笑聲]﹖ Blanche Leung,醫生,1970年4月16日,在紐約州紐約市出生。</p>
<p>問﹕可以講一些你所知的,他們移民來美的經驗嗎﹖ <br>

<p> 梁﹕我不知道確實時間,我知道他們至少唸4年大學,是多久以前了﹖讓我猜想一下,可能是40、45年前在大學,在香港嘛,我想母親當時4、5歲﹔父親就較大一點,可能在十來歲。</p>
<p>梁﹕嗯,他們原本是同鄉,或是隔鄰鄉里,老早就認識,兩個家庭也互相認識,在大學又重逢,我猜想只因為背景相同的緣故。 </p>
<p>梁﹕讓我看看,我想他們60年代到加拿大,他們到了加拿大,然後60年代尾到美國,因為我在1970年出生 [笑聲],所以他們應在這裡至少一年,1969年時,他們可能已來到。</p>

<p> 問﹕你的父母做什麼﹖</p>
<p>梁﹕只有我父母來,母親在七個兄弟姐妹排行第三,她有二家姐在加州,對不起,我也不知道她什麼時候來,他們一家在60年代已定居,她有最小的妹妹在70年代來這裡 [笑聲]唸大學,在聖地牙哥定居,但家中大部份人居住香港,1997年香港交還中國共產黨,很多家庭成員其實移民到加拿大 [笑聲],但是……</p>
<p>梁﹕不,因為我母親最大的姐姐仍然留在香港。 </p>
<p>梁﹕我九歲去過一次,其後已經多年沒有回香港了,那時香港很美麗,我聽聞說,現在香港和紐約市一樣都是繁盛都會。 </p>

<p> 梁﹕是,他有一間藥房,在我九歲時開設,我時時到店裡幫手。[笑聲]</p>
<p>梁﹕嗯,你知道,藥房當時在華埠的邊緣,在70年代尾及80年代初,華埠集中心地是在藥房以外的一、兩條街,但後來發展大了,但我只記得陪同母親到市場買魚及水果,我也到乒乓球會玩耍,那地方由消防局改裝的,就在街尾 [笑聲],有三、四年之多。除此以外,華埠挺忙碌,我記得時時人們熙來攘往,也有些腥味,我亦上了中文學校六年,如連幼稚園一起算,有七年之多 [笑聲],每星期六都上學,我最怕,但現在回想起來,唸中文課很好,[笑聲],學了一點母語。</p>

<p> 問﹕所以那時華埠是否你成長的主要家庭及社區﹖</p>
<p>梁﹕是的 [笑聲]。</p>
<p>問﹕-- 又提及中文學校,那時的中文學校是怎樣的﹖</p>
<p>  這一群小孩子相差八個年級之多,--約有6-7名是亞裔,一名韓裔,其餘是華人,<br>


<p> 梁﹕我大部份時間在華埠以外活動,如說有感覺,華埠是一個我參加乒乓球會的地方,那是因為我母親認為我太瘦,運動不足,所以,我想她要訓練我強壯一點 [笑聲],讓我練習一種運動,與籃球、壘球或排球之類相較之下,她鼓勵我學乒乓球,同時那裡靠近父親的藥房,他們便於照顧我。</p>
<p>梁﹕我要說,自從我接受醫科訓練,成為醫學生、實習醫生及院士後,我覺得有需要成為社區的橋樑,服務我的同胞,因為我在醫院看見很多華裔病人不能表達自己,我們被稱為…..,我不知道用中文怎麼說,也不能用英文表達,華人基本上忍受很多,不會,也不善於用言語表達一些身體不適或痛楚,溝通是一個大障礙。我記得進入病房和他們談話,他們就豁然開朗起來,因為如果有人曉得和他們講話,他們就會像正常人一般講話,只要找到一些可以溝通的人,他們原來不是真的很堅忍的。我覺得至少在這方面,我可以做一點事情,我愛在這華埠工作,真的,因為我們的父母大部份是老人家,入到醫院就好像照顧我的祖父、祖母一樣。這些老人家也關心我的健康 [笑聲],他們又給我一些點心什麼的,讓我不會看來肚餓、或工作過勞,他們很仁慈,很關心我,我覺得可以報答他們,很高興可以和他們談話,同時可以照顧他們。</p>

<p> 梁﹕我就讀紐約大學醫學院,在1992年開始唸醫科,1996年畢業,然後在該院的醫療中心實習及駐診。其後到表維醫院接受訓練,那裡看見很多華裔病人,因為他們大部份沒有健保,都到表維醫院接受診治,那附屬紐約大學的私人醫院是Tisch醫院,華裔病人不算很多,但在我畢業後駐診時,說華語的病人越來越多。</p>
<p>梁﹕嗯,我是那些典型的孩子,父母十分鼓勵我從事醫療行業,尤是是我父母本來就從事醫療工作﹕父親是藥劑師,母親是以色列醫院的血液實驗室經理,所以,是啊,我從小就有醫療的概念,我在非常年幼時就擁有一整套1973年的醫療百科全書 [笑聲],一整套,我忘記有多少冊了。但我父母引以為慰的,是我真正享受此行業 [笑聲],雖然也得經過長期的鍛練。</p>

<p> 梁﹕噢,我母親並不是醫生,她原來是實驗室技術員,漸漸擢升到以色列醫院的管理階層。作為華裔女醫生,我不覺得很特別,我和其他人一樣接受訓練,除了---不單是華裔---也因為是一名女醫生[笑聲]之外,病人並不以為我是醫生,我猜是因為我看來較年青之故,所以他們時時誤會我是護士、助理護士、或是醫務職員之類,總之不是醫生,我時時被誤會不是醫生時,我會大方地承受 [笑聲],雖然我花了這麼多年接受醫生的訓練。你是否要我仔細地講感受……﹖</p>
<p>梁﹕肯定,我覺得是,現在仍然是男性主導的社會,但在我們受訓的課程及醫院駐診中,婦女的影響力亦漸漸增加,社會上多了女醫生,我覺得是,但男女比例仍未達到50比50,我不能說我經歷過明顯的歧視,幸好我想不到 [笑聲],我想不到有不公平的現象需要立刻改正,但是,我樂於見到在行政部門有更多華裔女醫生,或女醫生任職,因為社會大勢所趨。</p>

<p>梁﹕噢,他們極為多樣化,人口密集繁多,不同組別聚在這麼小小的地方,令人驚訝,他們也正擴展中,向南、向下,亦向東、或西方發展 [笑聲]。</p>

<p> 問﹕所以你的病人來自不同年齡及經濟背景﹖</p>
<p>梁﹕嗯,我繼續視察病人 [笑聲],然後我走到樓下,醫院外面一片混亂,我嘗試了解華埠怎樣,因為我們的秘書應該已到了華埠,我要知道他們是否安全,又安全回家了沒有。顯然,我們要關閉診所,<br>

亦關注如何聯絡我們的父母,那時我們知道沒有診症時間了。我們要為駐守地工作,醫院、急症室擠滿醫生,當時醫生太多了,院方叫醫生下班 [笑聲],又說如有需要時,他們會聯絡我們。所以我走到中城的診所,看看什麼情況,嘗試聯絡應聯絡的人,我發覺我們的秘書安全,跟著又要找尋一個安全地方落腳,那可能在什麼地方呢﹖我記得東面一片混亂,我向西行了一段路,然而西邊死寂一片,因為每個人都向東行,他們想跨區到皇后區或什麼似的。我的一名秘書要由37街、步行過布碌崙橋、回到家中,很慶幸她走畢全程,那是難以置信的。</p>


<p> 梁﹕是的,有趣的是,提到心理健康,華人社區是一個十分封閉的社區,病人不會很鄭重地投訴或關注,你很刻意去詢問他們也得不到肯定的答案,他們喜歡淡化地講,嗯,可能有一點點疲倦軟弱,所以要清楚地判斷是否9/11對情緒的影響,我不能充分作出斷症。</p>

<p> 問﹕但當局似乎為下城居民提供有不同的計劃,一些更特別為華埠,一些特別為其他地方,但你不覺得你的病人獲得一些服務嗎﹖</p>
<p>梁﹕有,我認為華埠已經復元了一點,現在華埠遊人肯定增多了,我很容易踏到其他人的腳趾 [笑聲],華埠仍然興盛、滿有生氣是一件好事,我認為華埠在一定程度上已恢復過來,但閱讀一些報張時,也聞說9/11的陰影仍然存在,尤其是在柏路附近。今天的報張說有團體已提出法律起訴,因為關閉柏路引起生意倒閉,所以影響仍在,縱然有關當局說是為了保障人民安全的緣故,所以……。</p>
<p> [手機響聲]</p>

<p>梁﹕問得好,並不是,我不認為是。但是,我認為新畢業的醫學生--[清清喉嚨],對不起--明白在華埠開展事業及受訓的可能性,但你知我沒有和同事討論這些,但華埠聘請醫生大部份都是找同類的醫生,因為不懂華語的人在這裡執業很奇怪,但不是沒有,這裡肯定有醫生是非華人,不講中文,在華埠執業,他們不是每天來,可能一星期有一、兩天在華埠執業。好像我們華埠也需要多一個整形外科醫生,現時有一個留在華埠 [笑聲],他是唯一一個,有很大的發展空間,這裡的病人需要多種專科醫生,所以有很大的發展空間。</p>
<p>梁﹕有趣的是,我想我是因為從小只接觸一點點華埠的緣故,多數只在周末,及高中時有時放學後來到華埠,初起我不怎樣喜歡來華埠,但來到後又感覺很輕鬆。有趣的是,我從來沒有認真想過,但覺很自在,需得被需要,又能為人服務,所以我回到華埠工作,將來亦會留在華埠 [笑聲],若他們需要我,我就留下來。</p>
<p>梁﹕嗯,我肯定自己會留下來工作,我猜我會不大改變,不會遷去其他地方,除非租金貴到非走不可的地步 [笑聲],但肯定是,我的病人隨著歲月會改變,政治氣候或環境天氣就很難預測了,今日,將來都可能轉變,華埠已經在這裡很久了,我猜華埠會捱過一切轉變留下來,我真的認為它會長在。</p>
<p> [訪問完畢]</p>


“Dr. Blanche Leung,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed June 6, 2023,