For the Yang siblings, attending medical school at UMHS in St. Kitts is a family affair indeed. The Yangs grew up in Concord, North Carolina and all attend UMHS: Chingtsing Yang (EBS4); Houakhing Yang (EBS4); and Tsuehai, who entered EBS1 this month.
The UMHS Endeavour spoke to the Yangs about how each became interested in medicine at an early age, why they decided to study at UMHS—from the school's academic reputation to how one staff member made a difference for them—and what it is like studying medicine together as a family remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Yang family
The Yang siblings are first-generation Asian-Americans. Their parents originally came to the USA from Laos. All three were interested in science and medicine at an early age. They also have a sister who is pursuing a pharmacy degree instead of becoming an MD.
Chingtsing, the third oldest of the four siblings, graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in psychology. Why did he choose to pursue medicine?
“In high school, I would volunteer at the community free clinic during the summer months; it was here that I met several physicians who helped shape my love for medicine,” Chingtsing said. “These individuals sought to remove the barriers of limited resources and the lack of health insurance in order to provide the best care possible for their patients. Watching them interact with their patients allowed me to understand what medicine is at its core: commitment. As a result, it is this commitment to healthcare, to ourselves, and to the people we serve that ultimately made me want to become a physician.”
Houakhing also graduated from East Carolina University but with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in neuroscience. So, what made her want to become a physician?
“My reasons for choosing medicine were not the result of one epiphanic moment; rather, it was the accumulation of hours spent volunteering at the hospital, early mornings assisting with cancer research, and late afternoons working as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the biology department,” Houakhing said. “These opportunities allowed me to see the various aspects of science: medicine, research, and teaching, respectively. Although I enjoyed them all, it was the medical profession that called to me.”
Tsuehai, the youngest Yang, starts UMHS
Tsuehai is the youngest of the four siblings and just started UMHS in January 2021. He graduated from Campbell University in North Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He did not simply want to follow in his older sibling's footsteps. He actually worked in a different area of medicine before deciding to pursue an MD.
“The constant exposure to medicine through volunteering at the hospital and working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) was what initially sparked my interest in medicine; however, it was the lack of qualification to prevent, treat, and diagnose that eventually put me on this path to become a physician,” he said.
The Yangs have many reasons for wanting to study at UMHS, but it was a staff member who really made a big difference. New student Tsuehai Yang first heard about the school from his brother and sister.
“I first learned about UMHS through my siblings when they were applying,” he said. “The amount of guidance and support UMHS gave my siblings was commendable. I remembered [UMHS Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Southeast and Puerto Rico] Mr. Earl Mainer personally calling and texting my siblings a few of times throughout their processes to check up on them. These small acts alone showed that UMHS was dedicated to their students and even though I was not applying at the time, UMHS stood out; so obviously, when it was my time to apply to medical schools, I didn’t even have to think twice about whether or not I should apply to UMHS.”
Academic reputation of UMHS
The school’s academic reputation first intrigued Chingtsing Yang.
“The first-time test rate and accreditation was what initially attracted me to the school; but it was the actions from the people at UMHS that made me want to apply to the program,” he said. “I was really amazed at how accessible and easy it was to get in touch with the faculties and students. I have never heard of a school where I could text, call, email, Skype, or do live chats with members of the school if I had a question or just simply wanted to know more about the program.”
Houakhing Yang admits that UMHS impressed her when she started looking at Caribbean medical schools.
“When I heard about UMHS, before drawing my own conclusions, I spent hours doing self-research and had numerous email exchanges with multiple UMHS students and faculty members,” she said. “The amount of help and guidance I received was astonishing. I felt like more than just a number; I felt seen. The many questions I had were answered with thoroughness and speed. I even had Earl Mainer personally reach out to me multiple times before and during my application process via text and voice call to see if I had any questions/concerns about the program. These small acts alone stood out. Thus, the more I learned about the school, the more I could confidently see myself succeed there as a medical student and then eventually as a physician.
Studying simultaneously with siblings
What is it like studying medicine at the same time with his brother and sister?
“Never in a million years did we think we would be attending the same medical school as any of our siblings. Medicine is ever-changing and we considered ourselves very fortunate that we get to share this journey with each other.”
Each sibling has something to say about they like best at UMHS.
Chingtsing said the resources (such as Kaplan) and the professors are two of his favorite things.
“The professors are always willing to help and they are very caring,” he said.
Houakhing Yang also likes the faculty, noting “they have our backs completely and I am so grateful for them.”
“I like that UMHS continuously seeks out state approvals; this is important because if approved, students will be able to do clinical rotations, get residencies, and obtain licensure to practice in those approved states—one of our most recent state approvals being California (January 2020),” she said. “I also really like the small class sizes; during my time at UMHS so far, whether it’s anatomy lab or just a quick in-class group discussion, not once have I felt there were too many students assigned into one group.”
Tsuehai said he likes what he’s learned about UMHS either from his siblings or from self-research.
“I look forward to discovering UMHS for myself,” he said.
Both Chingtsing and Houakhing say they are not sure which specialty they will choose yet. Tsuehai is also noncommittal for now.“I’m keeping my options open; right now, my main focus is making sure I have a successful transition into medical school and mastering the materials,” he said.
What is it like studying remotely during the pandemic?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, classes at UMHS are currently remote but everyone continues to study together.
“We have our own learning styles,” Tsuehai said. “We all do independent study and seek each other out when we have questions and/or want to reinforce a concept.”
(Top photo) The Yangs at UMHS: (left to right) Chingtsing Yang, Houakhing Yang & Tsuehai Yang. The three siblings are studying simultaneously at UMHS. Photo: Courtesy of the Yangs.
Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.