Born in Vietnam, Thao Jinwright, MPAS ’13, a clinical assistant professor at the UF School of Physician Assistant Studies, moved to the U.S. with several family members when she was 4 years old.
“Growing up, it was common to live in a multigenerational household as part of my culture,” she said. “My home had 11 family members in it, and my grandma was really the matriarch. She kept everyone connected to our traditions, like holiday celebrations, prayers and food.”
In Vietnamese culture, she said, food represents love and acceptance. Every year for her birthday, her mom makes her favorite noodle soup, with long noodles signifying a long, healthy life.
When it comes to caring for patients, Jinwright said it’s important for her to understand how a patient’s cultural background influences their medical history and experiences.
She said it felt validating to see an ancient therapy commonly practiced among Asian cultures, cupping, gain prominence and become part of public conversation after U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps used the therapy. During cupping, a suction is created on the skin with the application of heated cups, often leaving circular marks.
“After pictures of Michael Phelps with cupping marks were taken at the Olympics, I remember seeing all these articles pop up on social media and in the news about cupping and how cupping is used in Eastern medicine,” Jinwright said. “I was so happy that he was bringing cupping to light and that more people would know about it. It’s so important to be open-minded and continue to communicate with one another and understand where everyone is coming from.”