Washington Update

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: FASEB Celebrates Leaders Making a Difference

By: Debra L. Bouyer
Thursday, May 6, 2021

This year marks the 31st anniversary of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month as a national celebration.

Recognizing the impact of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contributions to society, Jeanie Jew, a former congressional staff member, and Ruby G. Moy, former Chief of Staff for Representative Frank Horton (R-NY), helped spearhead the legislation designating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May, which was previously limited to one week. May was chosen as the commemorative month to coincide with the first Japanese immigration on May 7, 1843, and to honor the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, which Jew’s great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, helped to build after coming to the U.S. from China.

Throughout our nation’s history, there are countless examples of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine. The following individuals are a small sample of those who have secured their place in U.S. history:

  • Yellapragada SubbaRow, PhD (1895-1948), a biochemist, made significant contributions in biochemistry leading to the discovery of several antibiotics, including tetracycline and chlortetracycline and the anti-cancer drug, methotrexate.
  • Flossie Wong-Staal, PhD (1946-2020), a former NIH scientist, played a key role in identifying HIV as the cause of AIDS and cloned the virus to determine the function of its genes.
  • Vivek H. Murthy, MD, became the first member of the AAPI community and youngest American to serve as the U.S. Surgeon General under President Barack Obama.

FASEB recognizes there are countless additional examples to share of the contributions made by scientists from underrepresented backgrounds beyond Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In our continued effort to drive diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the biomedical research community, FASEB is highlighting our member societies’ scientists from historically underrepresented communities throughout the year. If you are interested in sharing your story, contact Debbie Bouyer.