Jay Fong, MD, UMass Memorial Medical Group, Pediatric Gastroenterology
The best part about treating children, says pediatric gastroenterologist Jay Fong, MD, is seeing them smile when they get better and can enjoy being kids again. “What drew me to pediatrics was the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the health and well-being of the next generation, who sometimes don’t have the same capability to self-advocate as older patients,” Dr. Fong said.
Being an advocate for others is part of Dr. Fong’s mission as a UMass Memorial Health physician — a core value that he’s brought to his work with patients and his fellow caregivers for more than 15 years. Dr. Fong strengthens our culture of inclusion and belonging as a co-chair of our Asian Employee Resource Group (AERG). He stepped into this leadership role in January 2020, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were beginning to unfold.
“We began to see an alarming pattern of anti-Asian discrimination outside of the institution,” Dr. Fong recalled, as reports of racism and violence toward Asians across the U.S. increased during the coronavirus outbreak. “We wanted to give our employees of Asian heritage a safe place to voice their concerns and be heard,” he said. “We also wanted to offer our services to anyone at our institution who has any question about the Asian experience or culture.”
The group has held regular monthly online meetings and has also gathered for brown bag webinars and panel discussions. “Past topics have included microaggressions in the workplace as well as anti-Asian discrimination and violence in general,” Dr. Fong said. “We talked about how Asian Americans can best navigate these really tense times, and how to take care of ourselves, our families and our communities.”
Being visible in the community has been an important part of the AERG’s outreach work, including Dr. Fong speaking at rallies to raise awareness about anti-Asian hate and violence. “We are involved in community volunteer activities and local health initiatives such as the bone marrow enrollment drives, the Working for Worcester Build Day (through our Anchor Mission) and engaging in fundraising events such as the UMass Cancer Walk and Run,” Dr. Fong added. “We have tried to make our stamp in the community outside the institution. I think people in Worcester have been pleasantly surprised to see us out there.”
When not at work, Dr. Fong enjoys taking part in his two sons’ Boy Scouts activities; he sat on an Eagle Scout review board panel for one Grafton Troop, which recently welcomed their first female Eagle Scout. “I felt honored, humbled and blessed to be part of that panel,” he said. “I like to be involved in the community in such a way that incorporates quality family time.”
With pandemic restrictions easing, Dr. Fong looks forward to resuming in-person meetings for the AERG — which has welcomed and continues to be open to non-Asian members. Through his continued work with the group, Dr. Fong is committed to building a community that gives his fellow caregivers a greater sense of safety, belonging and purpose. “We're going to continue to be involved in a lot of community activities,” Dr. Fong noted. “Any community that needs our support, that needs to find a voice … we will be there.”
To read more stories like Dr. Fong’s, visit everyoneeveryday.org.