Lingsheng L.



I am a geriatrician and palliative care physician, which means I provide medical care for older adults and people with serious illnesses. When I was in medical school, a mentor told me, “Geriatrics is caring for those who have cared for us.” Before I immigrated to the U.S. from China, I was raised by my paternal grandparents (Ye Ye and Nai Nai), who were two of my biggest reasons why I became a doctor.

In 2021, while learning to become a geriatrician at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), I started hearing news of Asian seniors getting attacked and assaulted in public places due to COVID19-related anti-Asian racism. One such incident was the death of Mr. Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai-American grandfather who died from a brain bleed after being shoved to the ground. He died on the street in a San Francisco neighborhood just minutes away from a geriatrics clinic where I provided care for patients, many of whom were older Asian immigrants. Soon after, news of other hate crimes towards Asian seniors spread from San Francisco to New York City.

I felt a lot of anger, frustration, fear, and grief while trying to process these incidents. At the time, I was talking with a mentor (Dr. Alexander Smith at UCSF) and learned that he and his team were starting a research study looking at the health impacts of anti-Asian hate. We shared a goal of wanting to better understand the experiences of Asian seniors facing racism and discrimination, and to figure out what clinicians (doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers) can do to better support Asian communities.

Fast forward a few years later, we (a team of physicians, researchers, educators, learners) sent out surveys to hundreds of older Asians/Asian Americans in the Bay Area and interviewed 60 Asian seniors and 20 clinicians.* From their stories, we learned about how so many Asian seniors have avoided taking public transit, going grocery shopping, getting medical check-ups, and socializing with friends and family due to fear of becoming victims of anti-Asian hate. People spoke of suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and loneliness. Many clinicians have noticed that these health impacts affected entire communities, not just select individuals.

We also heard stories of resistance. There were people who volunteered as community chaperones to help other seniors feel safer. Some formed committees to spread awareness of these hate incidents. Others voiced the importance of systemic efforts for dismantling hate, from creating more language-concordant mental health resources for older Asian patients to improving Asian representation on local and national levels.

As a 1.5 generation Chinese-American, I am drawn to immigrant stories of families and grandparents and how they form connections with other another and build resilience. My vision is for Asian seniors to receive culturally-aligned medical care, and to be seen, heard, and respected as valued members and story-keepers in our communities. The work that I do now as a physician and researcher is one of the ways I can keep showing love and giving back to all the Ye Ye’s and Nai Nai’s.

*A news brief on our study can be found here: