We are proud to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month and recognize the unique Asian cultures within the R+F community. Earlier this month, we sat down with Dr. Tomi Lee Wall, an R+F dermatology partner, to learn about her background. Born in Shinjuku near Tokyo, Japan, Dr. Wall moved to California at the age of seven with her family.
Growing up, Dr. Wall always felt different from the world she grew up in – a community with very little Asian representation. As a child, she did everything she could to assimilate into and embrace American culture. However, leaning into her Japanese background became more and more important to her as she grew older. “The more you see how wonderful your background is, all the wonderful traits that come with it, the prouder you become.” Today, she works to teach her two children about the traditions of their Asian background, which includes valuing hard work and the importance of family, the value of a good education, loyalty and holding elders in high regard. She of course cannot forget to pass on her love for Asian food!
Though there is a stereotype that Asian women are quiet and meek, Dr. Wall says that “behind that quiet is a wonderful strength. And it is that strength that keeps the family together.” She looks to her mother as the symbolic Asian woman. Her mother persuaded her family to allow her to obtain a college education at a time when many women were dissuaded from a higher education. This paved the way for their family as they made their way from Japan to America to search for new opportunities.
Looking to her mom’s example, Dr. Wall displays that quiet strength through her own experiences. After finishing her fellowship at Harvard University, she was presented with the opportunity to stay on staff in the dermatology department, though she also pregnant with her son at the time. Dr. Wall made the tough decision to leave academia behind knowing that it would not give her much time with her child; she traded prestige for family. From there, Dr. Wall and her family moved from Boston to California where she later pursued a private practice position. Making this choice “was not weakness, but strength” and Dr. Wall shares this experience as an example of prioritizing the values she was taught to uphold as part of her cultural background.
Dr. Wall continues to enjoy spending quality time with her two amazing children and runs a successful dermatology practice where her patients include award-winning writers, athletes, musicians, and artists. She attributes her success to her family and the traits she learned from her Asian roots.
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