UH Med Now
JABSOM’s Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng Becomes Second Active Member of UH to be Elected the National Academy of Medicine
Days before her formal induction to the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng reflects back on her career.
“I started as an electrical engineer. I was one of those people who, during the AIDS crisis, understood that things weren’t just about numbers. It was about people, so I went back into medicine,” she said.
Dr. Tseng’s decision to pivot from developing high-definition televisions to family medicine proved to be a decision that would eventually positively impact tens of millions of Americans.
“When I was an engineer at Stanford, it was evident that the things I was working on were intellectually, academically, and scientifically challenging, but it was also clear that my heart was really drawn to people and the problems people faced in real life,” she said.
That urge to serve has been the driving theme throughout Dr. Tseng’s life and career.
“People go into medicine because they realize the difference they can make,” Tseng said. “It’s easy for me to remember the first day I sat in front of somebody who came in as a patient and said, ‘this is what’s going on in my life.’ I was in the position of taking everything I studied for and answering the question, ‘what can I do to make a difference for the person in front of me?’”
When she was nominated to serve on the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in 2016, Tseng’s ability to make a positive difference multiplied exponentially.
“The chance to serve on the US Preventive Services Task Force, to really work on America’s national guidelines for preventive care, is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to serve,” she said.
Tseng was the first physician from Hawai’i on the Task Force. According to the National Academy of Medicine, her contributions ensured medication access for 1 in 4 Americans unable to afford their prescriptions. The NAM also recognizes that Tseng’s work on Medicare Part D drug benefits helped to protect 48 million patients from losing coverage mid-year.
“For me, it was really about people not being able to afford their medications or not being able to afford health care,” Tseng said. “We knew what was right. We knew the care people needed; it just came down to a dollar sign, and that wasn’t right for me. When any one of us has to say, ‘do I put food on the table or do I get my medications for diabetes or hypertension,’ we all know there’s something wrong with the health system that works like that, but it’s also our responsibility to make it better.”
Tseng’s work at JABSOM’s Department of Family Medicine & Community Health prepared her for her USPSTF role and influence on the national stage. Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at JABSOM, says Tseng helped Hawai’i doctors navigate the local drug formularies to ensure they were prescribing medications that were covered and with the lowest out-of-pocket costs.
“Hundreds of our students and probably over 100 of our family medicine residents have learned about cost-effective prescribing because of her commitment to helping everyone understand the impact of these high prescription drug prices.”
Dr. Tseng will formally be inducted on Monday into the National Academy of Medicine. Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in health and medicine, and she will join Dean Jerris Hedges, MD as the second active UH Mānoa member of NAM.
“It’s the equivalent of winning an Academy Award or Nobel Prize for a clinical researcher,” Hedges said. “It’s tremendous recognition for the quality of faculty we have here at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.”
While Tseng feels privileged to join this exclusive club, she says getting here couldn’t have happened without support from the community, co-workers, and patients.
“As much of an incredible honor it is to become a member of the NAM, I’ve honestly been doing what I love and what’s meaningful my entire life. Much of this honor goes to JABSOM, Dean Hedges, my department, my co-faculty, residents who have supported me and taught me all these years, and the patients who make this all real. I also want to acknowledge the support of the HMSA Chair of Health Services and Quality Research. They really protected my time to serve on the US Preventive Services Task Force and work on Medicare part D drug benefits.”
Watch the video here:
See the ceremony photos here by JABSOM Communications Team:
Matthew Campbell, Director of Communications