AAPI Heritage Month Physician Spotlight: Justin W. Marson, MD

Recognizing Asian American & Pacific Islander Physicians in Our Community

May 11, 2023 · Dox Spotlight

During Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we reflect on the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals, both past and present, to the realm of medicine. Each week, we highlight distinguished members of the Doximity network. These interviews provide insight into the unique experiences these physicians encounter in today's medical field, as well as the paths they are pioneering. This week we are interviewing Justin W. Marson, MD, Dermatology Resident.

How does AAPI history influence your life as a physician?

One of the major reasons I became a physician was to help identify and knock down the barriers that patients and their families face to access healthcare. In the AAPI community there are many cultural and communicational nuances that can make it difficult to even know when to seek appropriate care. Part of my job as a physician is to identify concerns my patients may have, validate them, and offer potential paths forward that not only provide positive outcomes, but are also congruent with their personal and cultural identity.

Why is it important to you that we celebrate AAPI Month in medicine?

I think it is important to recognize that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, although formally recognized as a singular unit for census purposes, are not a monolith. "AAPI" represents a large swathe of people from over 70 different countries with life experiences spanning multiple generations. AAPI month gives us a chance to celebrate all the languages, foods, histories and more of these cultures and countries that comprise this diverse group and examine the current challenges they face as well as their successes, highlights, and champions.

I think it is important to recognize that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, although formally recognized as a singular unit for census purposes, are not a monolith

What has your journey been like as an AAPI physician?

Becoming a physician is not an easy task. Becoming an AAPI physician may be just a little more challenging. Characteristics that are on average valued by the AAPI community—such as being pensive or introspective—can often be misinterpreted as being disinterested or shy in larger group settings. More than once I have been asked (by both patients and/or clinical staff) "where are you from?" and am met with a look of disbelief when I say "New Jersey". As a child of AAPI immigrants, I often had to learn via trial-and-error how to get to the next step (e.g., getting into medical school, finding research, finding a mentor, getting into residency, etc) as there usually wasn't someone to turn to for advice. For me, these small things only highlight the strides that AAPI physicians before me made so that I could be where I am today; they also inspire me to mentor the next generation of physicians.

What can we do to support AAPI individuals pursuing or interested in pursuing medicine?

Every AAPI story is different. Talk with individuals who are interested in medicine to better understand their challenges and strengths and goals. At the very least, offer guidance based on your own journey. Speaking from my own experiences, it wasn't until I was far along into medical school/residency that I found mentors to advocate for and support me. Very likely there are hundreds(if not thousands) of interested minds out there who just might not even know where to start.

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