James Tang Oral History Interview and Transcript, October 11, 2019

Rice University

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0:24 - Early life and transition from moving from China to the US

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Partial Transcript: Oh okay, I uh, moved with my family to Houston, Texas when I was about three years old so I have no memories of uh, being in China so I grew up here in Houston and uh, uh, my household consisted of my father, my mother, and then I was the oldest of four children. I have a sister who’s a year and a half younger than me, a brother six years younger, and then another sister ten years younger.

Keywords: Canton; childhood; China; Christian; church; family; Glenbrook Valley; Guangzhou; Houston; immigration; Rice University; Texas; transition; US; Zhejiang University

Subjects: Childhood; China; immigration; transition; US

7:37 - High school experience as the first minority to attend Kincaid School

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Partial Transcript: Uh, yes mhmm I think as I grew older I felt less uh, discrimination uh but uh, being, you know, being Asian and also from a rather middle class family and then I, I went to um, the private high school Kincaid and I was a little bit socially out of place there because uh, you know I wasn’t as well accepted as other students of the same race and same social-economic uh, uh status.

Keywords: acceptance scholarship; Chinese; discrimination; education; high school; Kincaid School; minority; opportunity; private; tennis; uniform

Subjects: acceptance; discrimination; Education; high school; Kincaid School; minority

14:59 - Attending Princeton and early higher education plans

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Partial Transcript: Uh, yes [clears throat] I uh, always thought that I would go into higher education. And uh, early on I thought my goal would be to get a Ph.D. you know because that’s the highest degree uh at the uh—in higher education, so I thought I would always want to, you know, go as far as I could in education.

Keywords: application; College; diversity; education; graduate school; higher education; National Merit; Ph.D.; Princeton University; Rice; scholarship; science

Subjects: College; diversity; education; Princeton University; scholarship

26:28 - Changing career path and going to Stanford for Medical School

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Partial Transcript: I said, you know uh medicine has some, you know, nice advantages over pure science in the sense that uh I could practice medicine if I wanted to uh afterwards uh, or if I wanted to stay in academics, I could become a professor and teach or if I wanted to pursue research I could uh, become a research medical doctor. And so it seemed that uh the field of medicine offered a lot of flexibility for me.

Keywords: California; Career; electrical engineering; engineering; medical school; medicine; pre-clinical sciences; scholarship; Stanford; West Coast

Subjects: Career; engineering; medical school; medicine; Stanford

32:58 - Experience living all across the US

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Partial Transcript: I did uh, have the chance to go to Chinatown a few times in New York and enjoyed the Chinese food up there, but uh Princeton was only about uh, a 45-minute bus ride from uh, New York City so uh, there were occasions, during breaks uh, and some weekends when I would have a chance to visit uh, New York City. Um, I would say over the past fifty years or so, since I was an undergraduate, I think uh, the East coast in particular, Newark, New Jersey, has uh really improved a lot in, in—back then in the 60s uh Newark was kind of like uh, considered the armpit of the United States.

Keywords: Boston; California; Carnegie Hall; Chinatown; East Coast; Experiences; Galveston; Houston; Manhattan; New York; Newark; Palo Alto; San Francisco; US; Washington; West Coast

Subjects: California; Experiences; New York; San Francisco

39:52 - Choosing to specialize in plastic surgery and his overall experience in medicine

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Partial Transcript: Well um, initially when I was in medical school uh um I was interested in cardiac surgery I um did some of my summer jobs at the Methodist Hospital here in Houston. And uh, Dr. DeBakey and Dr. Cooley were very well-known uh, and, and at the top of the field in cardiac surgery so that uh, you know, interested me.

Keywords: DeBakey; Galveston; Houston; medicine; Methodist Hospital; Mount Sinai Hospital; NYU; plastic surgeon; Specialization; surgery; UTMB

Subjects: medicine; Methodist Hospital; NYU; plastic surgeon; Specialization; UTMB

53:40 - Background on his wife and three sons

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Partial Transcript: But, we met uh later on, uh, when I was a resident in plastic surgery in Galveston, uh I think I was senior resident at the time, and then my wife was uh senior medical student at UT Houston. And it was uh, Christmas of uh, 1981, and we were invited to a mutual friend’s home for the Christmas party and she was there uh, by herself, and then I was there with my family. And got to met her, we started talking, and found that we have a lot of mutual uh interests, medicine for one, and music for another.

Keywords: career; dentist; doctor; Houston; interests; lawyer; long distance; McCombs School of Business; Mount Sinai; Nashville; Princeton; sons; Texas; UT Austin; Vanderbilt; Wife

Subjects: career; dentist; doctor; interests; lawyer; sons; Wife

79:21 - His self-identity as a Chinese-American and his involvement in the community

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Partial Transcript: Oh, well uh yeah, I feel primarily as Chinese American. Yeah, I uh, you know I’m a naturalized citizen, I’ve lived here all my life, and I feel I’m very pro-American, I’d say, and yet I know that ethnically, you know, my background is Chinese. But I value uh, my citizenship here in America, and I think it’s the greatest country in the world, and I’m privileged to be here and to be an American.

Keywords: Chinese American; Chinese American Community; Chinese Doctors Association; Chinese Professional Club; involvement; Princeton Alumni; self identity; volunteer

Subjects: Chinese American; Chinese American Community; involvement


Interviewee: James Tang

Interviewers: Zoe Clark, Priscilla Li

Date of Interview: 10/11/2019

Transcribed by: Zoe Clark, Priscilla Li

Edited by: Mei Leebron 

Audio Track Time: 1:30:18

Background: Dr. James Tang was born in Canton (Guangzhou), China in 1948. He immigrated to Houston when he was three or four years old when his father attended Rice University as a graduate student. He attended the Kincaid School on a scholarship in 1962. He went on to attend Princeton as an undergraduate and then attended Stanford Medical School. He moved founded his own plastic surgery practice in 1983. He is married and has three sons. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, playing tennis, and working with the Princeton Alumni Association, Chinese Doctors Association, and Chinese Professional Club.  

Setting: This interview was conducted in Rice University's Digital Media Commons Photography/Video room in Fondren Library. Zoe Clark and Priscilla Li interviewed Dr. James Tang who shared memories and reflections on his educational journey throughout the United States as well as his work and family life since completing his education. The interview lasted an hour and a half.


JT: James Tang

ZC: Zoe Clark

PL: Priscilla Li

--: speech cuts off; abrupt stop

--: speech trails off; pause

Italics: emphasis

(?): preceding word may not be accurate

[Brackets]: actions (laughs, sighs, etc.)

Interview transcript:

ZC: Today is um, October 11, uh 2019 and we are interviewing Dr. Tang um, Dr. James Tang and my name is Zoe Clark.

PL: My name is Priscilla Li 

ZC: And we'll get started.

PL: So, we're interviewing him for the Houston Asian American Archive. 

JT: Okay. 

ZC: Okay. Starting off, uh, when and where were you born? 

JT: Okay, I was born in uh, what used to be called Canton, China and is now Guangzhou in China. I was uh, born July 23, 1948.

ZC: Um, how would you describe the household you grew up in? 

JT: Oh okay, I uh, moved with my family to Houston, Texas when I was about three years old so I have no memories of uh, being in China so I grew up here in Houston and uh, uh, my household consisted of my father, my mother, and then I was the oldest of four children. I have a sister who's a year and a half younger 1:00than me, a brother six years younger, and then another sister ten years younger. And then uh, we grew up in uh, Houston uh, uh my earliest memories are that we uh, lived in the subdivision uh, in Southeast Houston near the Hobby airport. It's called Glenbrook Valley and so I was there through my elementary school days through junior high and high school. 

ZC: Okay. What were your parents' occupations?

JT: okay uh, yeah. My father was a mechanical engineer. Uh, he was uh, trained in China and received his bachelor's degree there from Zhejiang University in China and then he worked for a year or two. And then uh, he wanted to come over to the United States to do graduate studies and so uh, he uh, came over and got his uh, master's degree in mechanical engineering at Rice University. And then 2:00my mother uh, was a uh, a elementary school teacher in China and then after uh, getting married and raising a family, um she was primarily a homemaker.

ZC: What were some of the values that your parents emphasized when you were growing up?

JT: Oh, well um, they emphasized the importance of family. We were a very close knit unit and so she--they em--emphasized the importance of uh um, taking care of your brothers and sisters and uh, being very close. Uh, and then they also emphasized hard work and uh, the value of education so they wanted us uh, to you know to uh, study hard and uh, get as much education as we could and to work hard and to uh, be the best at whatever we tried to be so uh, and uh--also, I was brought up in a church, so we went to church and had Christian values at the 3:00church too so.

ZC: What is your favorite childhood memory or a distinct childhood memory? 

JT: Mm, that's a good one. Let's see-- Well let's see uh, I guess my favorite memories as a child was um, taking piano lessons when I was younger. My mother uh, really encouraged all of us to uh, study piano one of the uh, first things she did when she--we could afford it was to get us a piano and uh, she hired a piano teacher for all of us so uh, I remember as a young child uh, learning piano and that was a lot of fun. I was also interested in sports too and uh, and so I played ping pong and later uh, picked up tennis and uh, I had a lot of fun with sports and music. 

ZC: And um, when you were growing up, what did you think you would be when you 4:00grew up? 

JT: Well at first when I was younger, I was always interested in math and science and so uh, I used to uh, enjoy reading a lot and uh, and--and so I early on uh, told everyone I wanted to be a scientist. So uh, um, one of my heroes uh, as a child was uh, Isaac Newton and so I would read about Isaac Newton and then later on Einstein and uh, people like that. So I wanted to uh become a scientist like them and uh, astrophysics was one of the things I was interested in early. I had a telescope when I was a youngster and I used to--it was a small uh refractor telescope that my parents got me as a present and I used to uh, use it and look at the moon and uh, Venus and Jupiter and things like that through the telescope. I always wanted to be a scientist when I was growing up.


ZC: Okay, so I guess when did you and your--when--okay when did your--when did you and your family like, immigrate to the U.S.? When your father-- um.

JT: Y--y--yes. It would be approximately 1951, '52 and uh, my father actually came over first. [ZC: Okay] He married my mother first in China and then I was born in China and then my sister was born a year and a half later also in China. And then during that time, my father came over by himself uh, to become a graduate student here at Rice and I think he got his master's degree in a year or two years. And after that, uh, my mother and my sister and I came over to the United States and we ended up growing up here in Houston. 

ZC: Okay. Oh well, if you remember anything, can you describe your transition to living in the U.S.? I know you were very young.


JT: Right, right, I was about three or four years old and I uh, I do remember when I first went to kindergarten and uh, first grade or kindergarten uh, I didn't know any English. Uh, at home we spoke our village dialect which is called taishan hua and uh, so I grew up speaking Chinese at home and then when I went to kindergarten uh, I would uh, uh, I went to public school and was exposed to the first time to uh, fellow Americans who spoke English. At first I didn't speak any English and I remember um my kindergarten teacher had to write a note home to my parents to tell them uh, to bring my towel uh, for me to sleep on you know during naps in kindergarten. And so, yes so uh, learning English was one of the things that I remember as a youngster having to do.

ZC: So, did you learn English just through school? Or did you take a special 7:00class or anything?

JT: Uh, mainly just through school and I uh, picked it up pretty quickly, but I do remember that one of my best friends in elementary school's mother was a speech therapist and uh, um, being raised speaking Chinese there were certain sounds in English that uh, I wasn't accustomed to such as diphthongs and so uh, uh, she was very helpful to me to learn how to pronounce the "th" sound and uh help my speech when I was younger. But basically, I just picked it up from school and from uh, my friends. 

ZC: So um, where did you live in Houston before you attended college? So I guess during high school.

JT: Okay, yeah, I grew up in a subdivision called Glenbrook Valley which is in the southeast part of Houston, uh, somewhat close to Hobby airport. In fact we were within almost walking distance to Hobby airport. And so I uh, lived and 8:00went to school right around there all the way through uh, uh, uh, elementary school and junior high school and then um, uh, for high school I got a special scholarship to attend a uh, private high school here in Houston called the Kincaid School which was near Memorial. It was about a 45-minute drive from where we lived and so uh, uh my mother would take me to school. We would carpool and uh, so I went three years sophomore through senior years at the Kincaid school. But we still lived in Glenbrook Valley, but I commuted to high school.

ZC: And um, since you grew up during like the 60s, do you remember any about--anything about the Civil Rights Movement in Houston? 

JT: Well um, I do remember uh, you know, some discrimination that uh, we experienced. Uh, my parents told me that uh, being Chinese, there were certain parts of Houston that uh, we could not uh, buy a home in, and so uh, I didn't 9:00know the details but uh, I was told that uh, you know, there were certain sections of town that uh, that um, prohibited Chinese from uh, from entering, you know, from uh, living. And so, and then uh, as a student I did uh, remember some discrimination at school or and uh, I would be kidded and uh, ridiculed for being Asian so some of my fellow students would make fun of me. And then they wouldn't know any better, but they would call me "Jap" or something like that, mhmm. 

ZC: So um, like, I guess, did it get better, you know, after high school like in terms of discrimination? 

JT: Uh, yes mhmm I think as I grew older I felt less uh, discrimination uh but uh, being, you know, being Asian and also from a rather middle class family and then I, I went to um, the private high school Kincaid and I was a little bit 10:00socially out of place there because uh, you know I wasn't as well accepted as other students of the same race and same social-economic uh, uh status.

ZC: Oh, okay. Um so, you were--based on your CV uh, you excelled in school during high school, so what made it--what motivated you to do well in high school?

JT: Well um, yeah as I mentioned, you know, my parents really encouraged me to study hard and uh, I was lucky I got a full scholarship to go to Kincaid for my uh, sophomore, junior and senior years and my mother insisted that uh, that I go there even though it was a 45-minute drive from home. And um, and so they encouraged me to uh, study hard while I was there and, and uh, and so I really took advantage I think of the academic opportunities that uh Kincai--Kincaid 11:00awarded me. It was a small school so I could participate in a lot of extracurricular activities that I might not have uh, been able to do in a larger public school. I was uh, umm--the main thing I was in was in slide-rule club which uh, is obsolete now, but back then all scientists and engineers uh, learned how to use the slide-rule and uh, we would have competitions and uh, things like that. So, I was a part of slide-rule club and I uh--we would have tournaments and uh, I would practice and uh, and uh, soon I started to excel in uh, in the competition and I would, you know, win uh, tournaments city-wide and even at the state level. And then uh, besides that I also had a opportunity to participate in some debate and speech which I think was a great experience for me to be able to learn how to speak in front of people and um then I was also 12:00able to participate in athletics when I was at uh, Kincaid. I was um, a member of the tennis team and uh, really enjoyed playing tennis there for three years and was captain of my tennis team for my junior and senior years. And um, really enjoyed that. Also, uh, I participated in what was kind of like a college bowl uh, for uh high school. And we uh--I had--I was on a team and we would compete against other schools and that was a lot of fun and a good learning experience too, so-- 

ZC: What were you favorite subjects in high school?

JT: In high school, um yeah, primarily liked uh, science and math and those. So I took uh, physics, biology, and chemistry and really enjoyed those courses but uh, I uh kind of consider myself well-rounded in academics too so I enjoyed--loved reading so I like English. I took uh, American Literature and 13:00English Literature. And then I enjoyed history too. So, took American history and world history and enjoyed all of those but my forte was math and science and, so I concentrated uh, mostly in those areas.

ZC: Did you face any challenges during high school?

JT: Well let's see uh-- I uh-- Not particularly um, uh, you know, it was a competitive school that I was in uh, even though the class was small. We only had about sixty-five students in our class but um it seemed like everyone came from uh, a, you know uh middle to upper middle-class family and they all had the advantages of going to uh--many of them you know went all the way through Kincaid and so they were all from uh, you know, well-educated families. And uh, and they were all very smart students so uh, you know uh the competition uh, for good grades was fierce but uh, um, you know I'm--I was able to, to uh, do well 14:00in school. And so uh, I didn't have any particular challenges in school other than to work hard.

ZC: Mhmm. What was the racial composition of your high school?

JT: Well um, [clears throat] it was uh almost entirely uh, white Anglo-Saxon. In fact uh, I graduated in the class of 1966, and to my knowledge, I think I was the first uh, non-Caucasian to uh, go to Kincaid, and uh, so I was the only minority student in my, my whole class and uh, so that was a challenge. But, I--I didn't, you know, feel uh, [clears throat] being too um different at that time. I was pretty well accepted by my fellow students and I had good friends there and was able to participate in a lot of activities, and so it worked out well for me. Mhmm. 

ZC: Did you always plan on going to college? 


JT: Uh, yes [clears throat] I uh, always thought that I would go into higher education. And uh, early on I thought my goal would be to get a Ph.D. you know because that's the highest degree uh at the uh--in higher education, so I thought I would always want to, you know, go as far as I could in education. So just uh, first went to college and then uh, was planning to go to uh, graduate school and it turned out that I changed my career plan and wanted to become a doctor. So, I ended up going to medical school and got an M.D. degree.

ZC: Yeah um, why did you choose to go to Princeton?

JT: Princeton? Okay. I was um, always interested in uh science and I wanted to go to one of the best schools that I could and uh, so when I uh, was in high school and thinking about where I wanted to go to college, um you know the--what 16:00I would uh, consider the top schools or the ones that I was interested in, so um I--as a youngster being interested in science and I heard of M.I.T. and so early on I was thinking that uh, "One of these days I would like to go to M.I.T." Of course, Rice is a great school too, and being that my dad, you know, got his graduate degree here it was certainly high in my uh, list of schools that I wanted to go to but also I'd heard about the Ivy League schools and uh, and uh, Princeton, and Harvard, and Yale and so I looked at applying to those schools as we--as well. So I ended up uh applying to uh, Princeton and Yale and uh, M.I.T. And got accepted at Princeton and I was offered a good scholarship there and then plus uh Princeton to me uh, was a well-rounded school. It was very good in 17:00the uh sciences. It had one of the top physics departments in the country. Mathematics as well and as well in the liberal arts. English, history, and other areas too. So, I uh decided for undergraduate I'd like to go to a liberal arts school and get a well-rounded education. 

ZC: Okay. Yeah. Um, I guess how was the college application process when you were applying? I guess what--what did you need to do to apply to college?

JT: Oh, [clears throat] well it was uh, challenging but from what I understand it's a lot easier back then than it is now getting into uh, competitive colleges. So uh, basically I just applied to six colleges and uh uhhh, and as I recall it wasn't too complicated a process. Of course, I had to take the SAT. I think I did take it twice maybe in my junior year and then to try and improve on my score I took it again in my senior year uh and um--As a sophomore, I believe 18:00I did take the National Merit Exam um, or the pre-SAT and then I was a National Merit uh, Finalist and so that kind of led me on to uh, uh, doing well in my SATs and um so--Basically, it was taking the SAT score, taking the SAT, and applying to the colleges that I wanted to. And then I was contacted by alumni from each of the schools for interviews. So I uh, appeared for an interview and from what I recall they weren't particularly stressful or anything like that and uh, and then later on I received an acceptance letter, luckily, from all the schools I applied to. And then also uh, financial aid was a consideration since uh, I needed financial aid in order to uh attend umm a private university. And 19:00um, and so I got a good scholarship offer you know from different schools and Princeton was one of 'em. And so I--uh with the financial aid that I received from Princeton, I was able to, to go there.  

ZC: Mmm--Did you live in a dormitory when you attended Princeton? 

JT: I did um, I um actually didn't know anyone else who's going to Princeton except for myself. Although one of my classmates from uh, Kincaid also got accepted to Princeton, uh but I decided um to just try my luck and, and uh, you know, the university assigned me to uh, three roommates my freshman year. And so I just--I went up uh, my freshman year and uh lived with uh, these three other students. Two were from New Jersey, one was from New York. So, they gave me some variety and gave me a chance to know people from a different part of the 20:00country. And then uh, later as I got to know some of my classmates uh, at Princeton then I uh, gravitated to picking some other roommates for my uh, sophomore, junior and senior years. And uh, so I lived on campus all four years and uh had roommates--different roommates actually each year.

ZC: And what was the racial composition while you were there? 

JT: Oh um, well um, [clears throat] when I was there at Princeton in the uh early, mid-1960s uhh, I would say it was basically about 90% uh, white uh, and I recall I was about uh, one of um a dozen uh, Chinese students. There were also a few other Asian students. Uh, I think we had a few Japanese students in my class. Umm--and uh several black students and a few Hispanic students, but uh, 21:00it was certainly not as racially diverse as it is now. I understand the uh, you know the Asian population is roughly 10 or 12% at Princeton. And uh, the black and Hispanic uh, population is even higher so yeah-- It is quite more diverse now. Also I might add that Princeton, when I went there, was initially all male. It was one of the few uh, all male universities back in the uh in the early 60s which included, you know, Harvard and Yale um, and then um, my last year there, uh the board of trustees decided to, to uh become--for Princeton to become co-ed and uh uhh we initially only admitted only twelve women who were already at Princeton studying uh, critical languages and they were allowed to apply and uh, 22:00be admitted to our class. So my class of 1970 was the first class to have twelve women graduate with us. After that, we had more and more women and uh more and more minorities. And so now uh, it's uh roughly 50% women.

ZC: That uh, that's very nice to hear. Um, how did your family feel when you moved away for--from--for college? 

JT: For college. Well um, [clears throat] initially uh, my father uh, wanted me to stay in town and he would have preferred that I uh, go to Rice. But my mother uh, when she was a student she also went away for college. And she thought that was a valuable experience and uh supported my idea of going out of state for college. And uh, uh, so I ended up, you know, going out of state for college. 


ZC: So um, why did you choose majoring in electrical engineering at Princeton?

JT: Oh. Yeah, well um initially I entered Princeton as a liberal arts major thinking that I might end up majoring in physics or chemistry, which is a part of the liberal arts school. Uh, but then uhh as time went by I uh, decided that I should probably pursue a career that would be maybe a little more practical than the pure science. And since uh, my father was an engineer, he's been practicing as a mechanical engineer for many years, and I thought engineering would be something that would be practical and yet it would be applied science. And so uh, out of all the engineering fields, uh I liked um electrical engineering the most and so I decided to major in electrical engineering. But at 24:00the same time I continued studying physics too and I thought that as a graduate student I might you know, go into applied physics or something like that. Mmhm. 

ZC: Uh, what was your overall experience like at Princeton?

JT: Overall I had a very good experience there. It was uh--for me it felt like a good fit. Um it was a um, large university but not uh, huge uh, we had about 3,000 undergraduates uh, you know there. And then I found a lot of friends with similar backgrounds uh while I was there, similar interests. And so I got to, to um make good friends that are lifelong friends, many of which I still keep in touch with uh, now fifty years later. And um, also, you know it offered me you know, a good variety of uh academic courses that uh I could pursue. And I was 25:00actually even able to take some graduate courses while I was an undergraduate there, which was nice. I was able to take a course in solid-state physics to give me a taste of what I might be interested in there. And also um, it it uh, while I was there, uh when I changed my mind and decided to become a doctor, it was pretty easy for me to take the pre-med courses that I needed while I was still an undergraduate so I didn't have to uh you know, take any extra time after college. Uh, and I was able to get into medical school, you know, right after graduation from college. And uh I--also I did pursue some uh extracurricular activities while I was there. Um, uh, I did try out for the freshman tennis team and uh, got to play intramural uh tennis. And uh, also, I 26:00was active in the Chinese Students Association, uh, uh the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, and uh also some of the engineering societies I was a member of, and uh, so it was a good experience for me and uh I'm very happy with uh, the time I spent there. 

ZC: Why did you choose--decide to be a doctor?

JT: Well, um, uh, as I mentioned I've always been interested in science and uh, even though um, my parents didn't pressure me to go into medicine as Chinese parents do to their children, I uh, uh--as I continued in college, the more I thought about it, I said, you know uh medicine has some, you know, nice advantages over pure science in the sense that uh I could practice medicine if I 27:00wanted to uh afterwards uh, or if I wanted to stay in academics, I could become a professor and teach or if I wanted to pursue research I could uh, become a research medical doctor. And so it seemed that uh the field of medicine offered a lot of flexibility for me. And uh, and so the more I thought about it, I said, "uhh that would be a good choice." So, I discussed it with my dad--I remember when I was thinking about it. He said, "well, if that's what you'd like to do, go for it." And uh, and so I got support from my parents and uh, and uh, it was not an easy decision to make since all along I was more into engineering and applied science. And uh--but as time went by I became more comfortable dealing with people. And so, I thought medicine, you know, might be a good fit for me. And uh, I'm glad I made that decision.


ZC: Mmh. Why did you choose to go to Stanford for medical school?

JT: Well umm, uhh, I applied to quite a few different medical schools around the country. Some here in Houston, some in California, some uh, back in the East Coast as well. And uh, I guess uh, Stanford uh gave me an opportunity to go visit another part of the country that I hadn't been to before. It's out in California and uh, and it's an outstanding medical school. Also it uh uh encouraged medical research for its students. And so at the time, I thought I might be interested in research as well as uh being a practicing physician and uh, also I was offered a generous scholarship to uh, attend so the combination of those factors led me to choose Stanford for medical school.  

ZC: Mhm. What was your experience at Stanford?

JT: Stanford uh, it was very challenging. Uh, I would say in some ways, I would 29:00say, even more challenging than uh, college because the volume of information that you had to learn in a short time and also uh, uh, somewhat different field from electrical engineering and math and physics which I was uh, more accustomed to and more comfortable with. Uhh, you know I had to learn biochemistry and biology and th--subjects like that are not as familiar to me. And then also uh, you know, for examinations, things like that, there was a lot of rote memory, memorize the Krebs cycle, things like that. Whereas in college, uh, you know, I was more accustomed to working on problems and solving problems. And then in medical school, you know there's more memorization of uh, information. And so it 30:00was uh--I found it challenging in a different way. And so uh, it took some getting used to. And then of course, uh, after the first two years of pre-clinical sciences, then we go into clinical aspects of medicine. And that's where you actually deal patients and learn how to examine patients and to uh, make diagnoses and uh, figure out treatment and so-- 

ZC: Um, were there any people who really inspired you as a student?

JT: Well uh, yes, I had some uh, very good teachers along that way that I give a lot of credit to for, you know, where I am today. Uh especially my sixth-grade teacher, his name is uh, Mr. Bill Young and he was a young teacher, just uh a couple of years out of uh, college himself umm from Texas A&M. When he was our 31:00sixth grade teacher, and he was a very dynamic teacher and took a real interest in all of us, but I felt uh in me in particular uh and he was very bright, and uh, and so, I learned a lot from Mr. Young. And he inspired to go on and do well in junior high school and afterwards. And then uh, in uh, high school I had a lot of good teachers there too. Uh, one in particular was Mr. Moss. And uh, he was uh, very dynamic. He would just read Shakespeare to us in class and he would really uh, really bring to life Shakespeare and English literature. And uh, and so um that um brought a lot of interest to me in, in uh, English and in learning 32:00in general. And then uh, in college, uh one of my uh teachers--professors as a freshman that I found very inspiring was uh, my professor in physical chemistry. Uh, I had advanced placement in chemistry, so as a freshman I took physical chemistry from this professor, Walter Kaltzmen. And he was authority uh, uh, in physical chemistry and wrote the book on kinetic theory of gases and he would just give a very cogent lecture uh, for almost an hour without notes. And uh he would just write on the board all the equations while explaining to us, you know physical chemistry and uh, he was just very inspiring professor, and brilliant man, so that made uh, physical chemistry a very interesting subject. 

ZC: So you've lived in a lot of places in the U.S. Can you describe your 33:00experiences in like New Jersey--like the Northeast, California, you also spent some time in Ohio. Can you just talk about all of them?

JT: Oh sure yeah. Well, uh one of the reasons I picked Princeton for undergraduate college was that it was on the east coast where there's a lot of history. It was somewhat close to New York City which is a fascinating city, the largest, most populated city in the United States, and uh, of course back then I didn't have time to explore the museums and the culture and all that. I did uh, have the chance to go to Chinatown a few times in New York and enjoyed the Chinese food up there, but uh Princeton was only about uh, a 45-minute bus ride from uh, New York City so uh, there were occasions, during breaks uh, and some 34:00weekends when I would have a chance to visit uh, New York City. Um, I would say over the past fifty years or so, since I was an undergraduate, I think uh, the East coast in particular, Newark, New Jersey, has uh really improved a lot in, in--back then in the 60s uh Newark was kind of like uh, considered the armpit of the United States. It was a very dirty city and uh you know a lot of crime and things like that. I think over time now uh, um, in some ways, uh, um, those areas have cleaned up and there's a lot more cultural things going on now than uh, uh, when I was a student. I have been able to take advantage of some of them now I enjoy museums and enjoy uh, music so I uhh. [clears throat] My wife and I 35:00have attended uh some of the concerts at Carnegie Hall. We've gone to a lot of the museums uh, in New York we've--and then in Washington, the Smithsonian. We've been to Boston, which is a very historic city, uh and visited a lot of the historic places in Boston and New York. And so uh, we found the East coast to be very culturally enriching to have uh, spent some time there. And I've been back there since college too. 

Um, and then, [clears throat] I went to Stanford for medical school which is in Palo Alto, uh, not far from San Francisco, in fact it's about an hour's drive south of San Francisco. And got to enjoy some of the uh, activities and cultural 36:00things that San Francisco had to offer including a very nice Chinatown and Chinese food. And uh, of course also California and Palo Alto is known for its good weather and so uh, so the five years I spent there as a student in California, I enjoyed mild weather and uh, kind of away from the snow storms that I experienced back in the East Coast. So um, it was uh a nice change in that aspect. And also very uh, intellectually and academically uh, challenging and uh enlightening place to be at uh Stanford. Um, and then uh, I went back to New York City after medical school for my internship. So I was in Manhattan and 37:00uh, experienced living in Manhattan for a couple of years and um, I was doing my internship at one of the largest uh, teaching hospitals in the United States, Belleview Hospital, and uh, so that was quite an experience to see the range of medical problems that uh, people had in a big city, hospital in a big trauma center. At that time I was interested in general surgery and cardiac surgery and so I got to experience a lot of trauma and uh, a lot of good heart surgery uh, while I was there um and then I went to Cleveland, Ohio for further training in general surgery and uh, uh, had two satisfying years there. Not as quite as interesting as being near New York City or California but uh, the training 38:00experience I had there was good. And then uh, it was at that time that I decided to become a plastic surgeon and so I applied to different programs around the country for plastic surgery. And then after being away from my hometown of Houston for so long for college, medical school, and for internship and residency, uh I was inclined to seek a position back in Texas. So uh, I was able to get a uh, fellowship in plastic surgery at UTMB in Galveston and so I came back to Galveston to do my plastic surgery training and was there for four years as a plastic surgery fellow and I stayed on faculty as assistant faculty at UTMB for a year and then uh, eventually settled down in Houston for my practice. So, kind of glad to be back home where I grew up and have a lot of family and old 39:00friends. But it was a good experience to see different parts of the country and do some traveling and, while getting a good education.

ZC: So, how long were you kind of away from Texas?

JT: Well um, [clears throat] I graduated from Kincaid High School in 1966. I spent four years at uh Princeton in New Jersey for college. I was in Stanford uh for five years, and then went back to New York City for two years of internship and uh, first year of residency. And then Cleveland, Ohio for another two years. So that's eight- thirteen years since graduating from high school. And then I came back to uh, Galveston to do my plastic surgery training. 

[PL and ZC whisper to each other]

ZC: So um oh I guess I--[PL and ZC whisper] so why did you choose to specialize 40:00in plastic surgery? 

JT: Well um, initially when I was in medical school uh um I was interested in cardiac surgery I um did some of my summer jobs at the Methodist Hospital here in Houston. And uh, Dr. DeBakey and Dr. Cooley were very well-known uh, and, and at the top of the field in cardiac surgery so that uh, you know, interested me. And actually I got to spend one summer working in the Methodist Hospital working in the ICU and uh, got to meet Dr. DeBakey and uh, watch him operate and I was very fascinated with that. So, and then uh, Stanford also had a very good surgery program. One of our um cardiac surgeons, Dr. Norman Shumway, at Stanford was one of the first in the United States to perform uh, a heart transplant 41:00surgery. He was one of the pioneers there. And uh, I actually did get to work in his laboratory. And uh, I did some uh, uh research uh with the heart transplants in uh, in dogs, and um, and so I thought I would want to try going into heart surgery and then uh, I picked a program in New York City at NYU which was also one of the leading centers in cardiac surgery at the time and uh, did my internship and year of uh, general surgery there. It was during that time that I kind of felt that I wasn't quite well suited for cardiac surgery and that uh--but I still wanted to be a surgeon because I like working with my hands and I like uh, you know curing patients with surgery and so I decided to um, 42:00continue my surgical education at the uh, Mount Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio and there I did my third and fourth years of general surgery training. And while I was there, I uh, learned about plastic surgery and uh the more I learned about plastic surgery, the more interested I became in it and it was uh surgery but uh, it was--it had a very wide range of uh, procedures that we did as plastic surgeons. Uh, we did uh--took care of burns, uh we did iuh, congenital surgery with cleft lip and palate, we also uh do uh, reconstructive surgery for breast cancer, for uh, other types of cancer, skin cancer, and then, also there's a field of cosmetic surgery that is within plastic surgery too. So, I felt that plastic surgery has a very wide range of uh, uh, different surgeries 43:00that we do and that would be interesting. And so I applied to uh, uh, uh different plastic surgery programs around the country, mostly in Texas, and then was accepted to uh, UTMB in Galveston for their plastic surgery program. And uh, it was a very good one, very well rounded program there as well. And uh, um world-famous uh, uh, burn unit there. Took care of acute burns and uh, reconstructive surgery for burns and then um, uh, also had a very good general plastic surgery program as well.

ZC: So um, what types of plastic surgery procedures do you provide?

JT: Well I've been in practice now uh, 36 years. And um, I started out doing 44:00mostly uh, um, trauma surgery uh, dog bites, uh, automobile accidents, and uh, lacerations to the face and the hands, and also a fair amount of hand surgery, repair of tendons and nerves. And also, as time went by, I did reconstructive surgery for decubitus ulcers, uh some breast construction for uh, patients who've had mastectomies following breast cancer, and uh, uh also skin cancers and tumors of the skin. And then uh, as time went by, I started gravitating more toward uh, elective cosmetic surgery. And so uh, I do uh, facelifts, eyelid surgery, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, uh breast reduction, uh and 45:00liposuction and so cosmetic cases and uh for the last 10-15 years now, I do primarily cosmetic surgery on uh the face, and uh tummy tucks and liposuction. Uh, nose surgery, eyelid surgery, things like that. 

ZC: Um, can you tell us about your first experience operating on like, a person?

JT: Oh well, uh let's see, I would say uh, as a medical student, uh in my uh fourth and fifth years, I rotated through uh surgical uh, rotations and I actually got to assist in surgery and so my  first exposure to live surgery case would be as a medical student as an assistant, and I would uh uh, gown and glove and actually help retract and found that fascinating. And then as an 46:00intern uh and resident at NYU, I got to do more and more uh surgery and uh and as I mentioned at the time, I was interested in cardiac surgery so one of my most memorable uh, experiences was uh scrubbing in on open heart surgery and watching uh, and assisting on coronary artery bypass surgeries, and those surgeries uh, and also trauma. One of the most dramatic surgeries I recall being a part of at Bellevue Hospital was a uh, stab wound to the heart. And uh uh um, man was uh attacked in an elevator, was stabbed right in the heart, was brought to Bellevue Hospital and then we opened up his chest and exposed uh the uh wound to his heart, and we sewed up the wound to his heart, and he recovered. And he 47:00was so close to death and yet because of uhh surgery, we were able to uh, save him, and then, you know within a week or two of-of the event, he was almost back to normal, and so uh, I found that very dramatic and uh also uh, some of the uh, cases involving um, um coronary artery bypass surgery was also very interesting where we would actually stop the heart from beating and uh, and then we would harvest veins from the leg, and then while the heart was stopped, we would bypass the uh, coronary arteries that were blocked that were causing the patient to uh have heart attacks. And then uh afterwards, after we completed the uh, bypass surgeries, we would shock his heart, and his heart would be pumping again. And then we'd close his chest, and take him into the recovery room but 48:00um, I found that kind of surgery very fascinating.

ZC: What procedures do you enjoy performing the most?

JT: Well, now as a plastic surgeon, uh plastic surgeon, um I think the most popular operation that I do and when I uh, find the most satisfaction with is uh eyelid surgery and uh face lift surgery. Um we're able to uh, restore youthful appearance to, to people and uh, and so after surgery, they you know they appear ten years younger, and most--all of them are happy with their surgery and gives them kind of a new uh, asp--view on life, and uh they feel younger, and um more vibrant, and so I'm satisfied when I'm able to help patients. 


ZC: Mhm. And, I guess what is your approach to like, patient care?

JT: Well um, yeah I'm very much hands-on, uh I'm the uh only doctor in my practice, and so I see the patients from their initial consulta--consultation, I perform the surgery, and then I do all the follow up visits, uh even take out  the stitches for them, you know, usually a week later. So yeah I'm very involved with my patients, one-on-one. 

ZC: And do you have any career highlights?

JT: Career highlights. Uh, well uh, you know I guess the most satisfying uh, parts of my practice have been with patients that turn out to be very satisfied. And uh, so I'm--I have patients that are very grateful, and uh they're complementary on my work, and uh, and then uh sometimes given some nice gifts. I 50:00had a patient who uh does art, and has painted a picture for me, and something of that nature. So, I find that very satisfying to be rewarded with not only thankfulness, uh but also um a, you know, gift that I can remember them by. 

ZC: And when do you plan on retiring?

JT: Uh, well uh, I've been in practice thirty-six years, and uh find it very satisfying, I'm in good health and I enjoy what I'm doing, so uh, uh I think I'll keep on practicing, but uh, I may uh look at retiring within a few years, five years or so. 

ZC: Mhm. Um, do you have a um, like a rigorous work schedule right now or is it flexible?

JT: Oh, yeah well my work schedule is fairly flexible, uh I practice by myself 51:00and have for the past thirty-six years. So, I have one full time employee, my secretary and office manager, and then I have several uh, part time employees. Several nurses, surgical assistants, anesthesiologists that comes in whenever I do surgeries and need their assistance. Uh, but uh, basically my schedule is fairly flexible. Uh, uh if there are any times that I need to take off, or want to take off, I just let my secretary know to schedule around those particular uh, times and dates. And I do, uh all my surgery in my office, uh and it's usually in the mornings. I start uh 8 A.M. and then uh, work until I finish my surgeries, and then I see patients in the afternoons, and then I do take some 52:00afternoons off from my practice. 

ZC: Um, what groups of people do you often uh, do you often see that come to your office?

JT: Um, I would say uh, most of my patients are um, women although I do have some men patients as well. So, I'd say roughly 75% of my patients are women, uh different ages uh, as young as in their late teens to seventy or, or even eighties sometimes. Uh, and then I have a mix of racial groups uh, I do see a lot of Asian patients. I have a large Vietnamese clientele, uh some Chinese as well. And I would  say roughly 60% of my patients are Asian, uh and uh then I 53:00do have a large Hispanic population and some Blacks, and Caucasians as well so, it's a mixture of different racial groups and different ages. 

ZC: So what are the costs of common plastic surgery procedures?

JT: Costs?

ZC: Costs, yeah. 

JT: Oh, um, you know, uh roughly for breast augmentation in the $5000 range. Tummy tucks in the 6500 altogether, and face lifts are about the same. 

ZC: So, moving onto more personal questions unless you have questions about his career [to PL]? Okay. So um, how did you meet your wife?

JT: Oh, okay. Well, uh, I first met my wife and uh, this is from my mother-in-law who remembers it, but neither my wife nor I uh, do not remember 54:00it. But, uh we were--I was roughly sixteen at that time, my wife was uh seven years younger, she was around nine, and our families went to Galveston together. Uh her family lived in Tyler, Texas, and I was in Houston. Through mutual friends, we went out to Galveston, and hand a afternoon on the beach together, so that was first time we met, but neither of us have memory of that. But, we met uh later on, uh, when I  was a resident in plastic surgery in Galveston, uh I think I was senior resident at the time, and then my wife was uh senior medical student at UT Houston. And it was uh, Christmas of uh, 1981, and we were invited to a mutual friend's home for the Christmas party and she was there uh, by herself, and then I was there with my family. And got to met her, we started 55:00talking, and found that we have a lot of mutual uh interests, medicine for one, and music for another. 

And our backgrounds were somewhat similar, so we started dating, and uh, at the time, she was a senior in medical school and planning to go into radiology and had applied to uh, different radiology programs. Turned out she was matched with her first choice, which was uh at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. And so she was--after graduation, she moved to Nashville, and uh did her radiology training there. And we had a long distance relationship for a few years. We got married midway through  her residency, and uh actually our oldest son was born in 56:00Nashville, and then after she finished her training, she moved back to Houston, and we had two more uh, sons. So, we have three boys altogether. And um, we've been married now for thirty-five years. 

ZC: So, um how, how old are your children currently?

JT: Okay. My oldest son who was born in Nashville while my wife was a resident there is now thirty-four. My second son who was born here in Houston, uh, two years later, so he's thirty-two. And then my youngest son is--just turned thirty. 

ZC: And, what kind of doctors are your children?

JT: Oh okay, well my oldest son thought about going into medicine, and but uh he also studied business while at UT Austin, and decided that he'd like business 57:00better. And so, he ended up going to the McComb School of Business in Austin, and uh, graduated with a degree in business and finance. Uh, and then his career has been in investment banking and then uh currently he works for Halliburton as the uh, director of mergers and acquisitions. Um, my second son uh went into uh dentistry, uh after college, so he went to dental school and uh, has been practicing as a general dentist in Houston for the past six years. And then my youngest son has decided to go into medicine. And he uh went to Princeton for undergraduate, and came back to Texas, and studied medicine at UT Southwestern Medical School and uh, is currently in his last year in residency for anesthesiology in New York City, at the Mount Sinai Hospital, and so uh, 58:00following his uh, completion of his residency, he will be practicing as an anesthesiologist. 

ZC: And, why do you think they chose to become doctors, I guess of different fields?

JT: Uh, well um, I guess uh, uh you know, partly because they were exposed to uh, medicine as uh youngsters being both my wife and I, uh, you know, have medical degrees, and I've been practicing as a plastic surgeon. And also uh, my father-in-law was a doctor, so there's some family history of uh medicine in our family in that aspect. And then my uh, um mother, my wife's grandfather was a dentist in China, so uh he's uh practiced in Beijing. And so uh, so dentistry 59:00and medicine is kind of been in our family, and so two of our sons decided to follow in those careers. 

ZC: So, did you oldest son get a doctorate in the business field?

JT: No, he didn't he just has his Bachelor's degree [ZC: Mhm] in business from UT Austin.

ZC: Okay, and um what values did you teach your children, and how do they compare to the values your parents taught you?

JT: Oh, well, uh I taught my children pretty similar values that my parents taught me. Uh, which uh was hard work, good education, and uh, so uh you know we encouraged them to study hard. And so they all did well to high school, and all went to college, and then two of them have advanced degrees in dentistry and uh 60:00medicine. And uh also, we encouraged them to um learn music too, and so they all took piano lessons when they were younger. My mother-in-law was a piano teacher. And started them in piano. And then uh they also enjoy sports. All three of my sons like to play tennis which I get to play a lot too. And uh, and so, they have similar upbringing to what I was brought up as well.

ZC: Mmh, and according to a short bio that you sent us, is you recently became a grandfather, how does that feel?

JT: Oh, uh well it feels great. Uh, yes we have a granddaughter who's uh, five months old now. And she's just really delightful, uh she's the first uh girl in 61:00our immediate family, having had three boys, so my wife in particular was very uh tickled to have another uh girl in our family. So uh, she's growing up normally and it's been a real pleasure to see her you know uh, change from week to week maturing each time we see her. So uh, it's been very delightful. 

ZC: Oh, does your I guess your granddaughter live in Houston?

JT: She does, uh-huh, they uh, live not far from downtown area, and so they're with my son and daughter-in-law but uh we get to see her, you know, once a week or so. 

ZC: And did you experience any cultural differences while living in different parts of the U.S.?

JT: Well let's see, I wouldn't--not necessarily um, you know, I think uh, you 62:00know, the east coast, you know, I think being--that's kind of the older part of the country, uh I think has more culture in some respects. Museums, music, and all that. But uh pretty much everywhere I went, we found a lot of culture, and uh, lot of interesting people to know. 

ZC: And what has been your favorite place to travel to in the U.S.?

JT: Oh, in the U.S.?  Well, um both my wife and I enjoy the outdoors, and uh, uh national parks and uh, so uh we've been to pretty much all the major national parks around the country. Uh, one of my favorites is Yosemite, which I've been to three or four times or maybe more. Uh, first time I went there, I was at 63:00Stanford as a medical student, I visited Yosemite over spring break with some of my friends. And, and we actually got to climb to the top of Half Dome, which was quite an adventure. But uh, uh Yellowstone National Park is another one of my favorites. Uh, Grand Canyon, uh and then on the East Coast, Acadia National Park, uh Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I've been to the Everglades, and uh, Texas uh, Big Bend, and to uh, in Utah, um Arches National Park and Zion National Park. And we like the hike, and enjoy being outdoors. So our favorite uh vacations have been to National Parks. Of course we also enjoy the cultural centers of New York and Boston, and uh Los Angeles and San Francisco as well. 


ZC: And do you travel often and where have you traveled?

JT: Well, uh yes uh, uh my wife and I uh have been to uh, as I mentioned, many parts of the United States. But also we've traveled outside the United States uh, I got to visit my home country of China or in--with my mother when she was still living. And got to see the village where my parents are from. And uh, in Guangzhou, the city that I was born, we got to visit there as well. But uh, in China we've been to uh Beijing, uh Xi'an, Guilin, and I uh, still have friends from college friends that are in Hong Kong, so I visit them in Hong Kong before. Uh, we've uh visited uh, Japan, been to Tokyo, and been to Kyoto. Um, and we've 65:00had a trip to Europe, uh London, Switzerland, Paris, and uh Rome. One of our favorites places overseas has been Switzerland. Enjoyed the scenery there, and uh, Jungfrau mountain peak of Europe is one of our favorite uh destinations. But uh, had a chance to visit uh cultural centers like Paris, and Berlin, and Warsaw. And uh, also a very uh, notable experience for me was to visit uh Auschwitz on one of our trips to uh, Europe. Very memorable place.   

ZC: And uh, where does your extended family live, like your um, siblings?


JT: Well uh, most of my family is in Houston. I have a brother and youngest sister who lives in Houston. Uh, but my other sister uh, who's uh a year and a half younger than me lives in Brooklyn, New York and has been there for many years. So uh, you know, she'd come back to Houston to visit us and sometimes we visit her in Brooklyn. Uh, let's see a lot of my cousins are in Houston. Um, so most of my extended family is in Houston area. 

ZC: Mhm. And do your children also live in Houston?

JT: Uh, yes uh two of them do. My oldest and my middle son live in Houston. My youngest son, John, uh presently in New York City, uh, finishing his anesthesia uh residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. 

ZC: Okay. And how did you maintain relations with friends throughout your training and your career?

JT: Oh well, um, in, in uh college, at Princeton, we have reunions every five 67:00years. And I've been fortunate to go back to almost each one of them. And so uh, every five years and coming up in 2020, is my 50th reunion which I'm planning to go to and meet up with a lot of old college classmates, and roommates uh, on those occasions. At Kincaid, we have uh, reunions as well as Christmas parties and uh, so I regularly attend those and see my high school classmates as well. And then I do a lot of my correspondence by email with friends from different parts of the country. So uh we exchange email, and uh, and you know send each other our favorite YouTube videos, and things like that. And occasionally by phone calls. 

PL: Were you in an eating club at Princeton?


JT: Um, I was in Wilson College, and so uh at that time we had only one college. Now I think there are a couple more, and so uh we lived and eat--ate there. It would be my junior and senior years. My freshman year I lived uh, in a dorm and we had a commons area where we ate. And then I did not join an eating club. Yeah my son, John, who went to Princeton did join for two years. I was just part of a college. 

ZC: And uh, how do you incorporate Chinese culture in your day to day life?

JT: Mmh well, I would say primarily through the food. Uh, uh, uh and you know I love Chinese food and, and uh we live somewhat close to Chinatown, so uh we have 69:00Chinese food very often. Uh, we do uh, observe some of the Ch--holidays, especially Chinese New Year, and uh, a lot of the organizations that acted with the uh Asian or Chinese organization. I'm part of the Chinese Professional Club, Chinese American Doctors Association, and so uh celebrate Chinese New Year with galas, things like that. Also I belong to the Chinese Baptist Church, and I go to uh, attend church regularly. And uh, also um uh, I try to speak Chinese whenever I can. Uh, I learned the village dialect, taishan hua, through my family when I was growing up and uh so occasionally whenever I meet fellow um, people from, from the village, I'll try to speak uh, taishan hua with them. And then when I was in college, I learned Cantonese from, from my uh, roommates who were from Hong Kong. And so I try to speak Cantonese with people who speak 70:00Cantonese. And then my wife's family is uh, from Beijing. And so they grew up speaking Mandarin. And I picked up some Mandarin too, try to speak some. And then, I enjoy uh, listening to Chinese music too. Frankly even though I don't understand the Mandarin that they're saying, but I enjoy the music so I'll play, you know, the Chinese songs sometimes in my car, listen to Chinese music. 

ZC: Mhm. And what languages can you speak?

JT: Well, um, besides English, I uh, uh fairly fluent in Cantonese, taishan hua, and some Mandarin. A little bit of Spanish. That's about it. 

ZC: Okay, and how did you become involved in the Boy Scouts of America?

JT: Oh, okay well um, when I was uh, about ten years old, one of my best friends 71:00in uh, elementary school uh, was involved in cub scouts, and boy scouts, and so he got me involved. And so I started out as a cub scout, and then later became a boy scout. And I earned a rank of uh, of uh, life and I did not achieve Eagle, which is the highest rank. And then having three sons when they were young, I wanted them to get involved with Boy Scouts as well, so my wife and I were involved in cub scouts, and boy scouts since our sons were young. And all three of my  boys went through the scouts program, and all three of them became Eagle scouts and so we were very much involved in that. I often went camping with them. And with my youngest son, John had a chance to go to New Mexico to the National camp called Philmont and spent a week camping out there. 


ZC: And what do you like about Boy Scouts?

JT: Well um, I like uh, uh I think some of the qualities that they uh promote uh you know loyalty, patriotism, and um, uh also uh I enjoy the fact they have different ranks that they work to achieve. Uh, merit badges give them exposure to  a lot of different things that they might not otherwise uh, participate in. So working on merit badges, they exposed to camping, hiking, uh, cooking, a lot of different skills. And then uh, through achieving their ranks, uh they have to do a pro--service project. They have to present uh, what they did in front of a panel. And uh so, so, you know, they stress uh loyalty and friendship, 73:00cleanliness, lot of good qualities that are worthwhile. 

ZC: And um, why have you continued to participate in Boy Scouts?

JT: Well, uh actually since my sons have been out of scouting, I have not been that uh, active. Although I have still support them whenever I can through uh, donations and then uh, I would purchase Girl Scout cookies, and Boy Scout popcorn whenever I can. So, I try to support them in any way I can.

ZC: And uh, talking about your hobbies, uh, how long have you been playing the piano?

JT: Piano, well I started when I was young, probably ten, eleven years old, taking lessons. And uh, I played piano for my church, youth choir when I was 74:00younger. And then in college, I took piano lessons from a music professor there. And then uh, continued playing pretty much on my own. And then currently I still accompany the uh--my Sunday school class in the singing of the hymns. And uh, my wife and I work on duets together sometimes playing the piano. So, it's been a real pleasure for me. So, I have a real appreciation for classical, mainly classical music. So, my wife and I are supporters of the Houston Symphony, and we regularly go to their concerts. And then often to uh, uh you know piano recitals. Uh, uh, often here at the Shepherd School of Music uh, we come to here too at Rice. And often support some of the competitions that they have here for young, young musicians and so I--then I listen to classical music a lot in my 75:00car and at home too. 

ZC: And how did you become interested in flying radio controlled airplanes and helicopters?

JT: Oh, well uh, as a youngster I was always interested in aviation. I was fascinated with how airplanes could fly and such, and actually had I better vision, I'm quite near-sighted, I might have wanted to become a pilot when I was younger. But not being able to be a real pilot, I, I uh, found out that uh a hobby of mine has been airplanes. I remember even as a youngster, I would like to fly rubber band airplanes, and I would build uh, model airplanes, and so later on when I learned that there are actually radio controlled airplanes that you can fly remotely, uh I got interested in that and purchased one, built it, 76:00try--learned how to fly it, joined a club, and uh, and so over the years, I've flown quite a bit, a few different airplanes, gliders, and then for a while, also helicopters. Also, I was somewhat  into radio controlled cars, and boats to less extent, so--  

ZC: And I guess, where do you usually fly the airplanes? And under what conditions?

JT: Oh, well uh, I belong to a club, um I have been a member for many years of a Northwest Radio Control Club, and we own our own field, which is uh, out in the suburbs in uh remote area. And we have nice flying fields, and uh so I would take my airplanes, helicopters out to the field, and sometimes there would be other people around that are also flying. Sometimes, I'd be by myself. But 77:00mainly our flying field. 

ZC: And, how long have you been playing golf?

JT: Golf.  Uh I started golf when I was in college, uh, uh my cross the street neighbor was a retired Presbityrian minister and he was an avid golfer, so one summer when I was home from college, and we were talking, he said uh, "Jim would you like for me to teach you how to play golf?" And that time, I was only interested in tennis, but I said, "Sure I'd like to go." And so he took me out, showed me how to grip the club, how to swing, and then uh, I got really fascinated with how far I can hit a golf ball. And uh--and so I ended up getting a set of clubs, and overtime, I just played more and more, took some lessons. And uh, then have enjoyed playing with friends, and also traveling. I've been different parts of the country on golf trips with my friends too. So, yeah. Uh 78:00it's in a way, I think it's a good exercise. You know it's something outdoors, and I enjoy, especially when, you know, the weather's nice, and then the scenery is pretty nice the golf course itself so i enjoy all that. And also I enjoy the challenge of always trying, you know, to be better. 

ZC: And do your children share any of your hobbies?

JT: Well, uh, all three of my sons uh love to play tennis. And uh, so in a way that kind of started them in that game, and they all still enjoy that, and play sometimes, uh together, the three of them would play, and other times--but most of the time, they'd play their club. Our son joined the club here in Houston, plays uh, regularly, you know, with teams in the league. But uh, all three of my sons enjoy tennis. Um, my oldest son was also into gymnastics when he was 79:00younger, and he was in competitive gymnastics. And then my youngest son was into taekwondo, so he became a black belt. In uh, taekwondo too, so. 

ZC: And uh, how do you identify yourself? Chinese, Chinese American?

JT: Oh, well uh yeah, I feel primarily as Chinese American. Yeah, I uh, you know I'm a naturalized citizen, I've lived here all my life, and I feel I'm very pro-American, I'd say, and yet I know that ethnically, you know, my background is Chinese. But I value uh, my citizenship here in America, and I think it's the greatest country in the world, and I'm privileged to be here and to be an American. 

ZC: And uh, you volunteer a lot around Houston, so why do you volunteer?


JT: Oh, well uh, I like interacting with uh people and so I've been active with the uh, Princeton Alumni Association. I've uh, served as its President in the past, I've been a class officer in my class as secretary, and uh, also I uh, have interviewed students who apply to Princeton for many years. So I enjoy interviewing them, answering any questions they might have about Princeton and uh, and I'm delighted when I see some of them accepted and actually go to Princeton. I'm also involved in the Chinese Professional Club mainly because my parents were members in the past. And uh, I've continued to be active there, serve--we have a scholarship we have that every year we give out to students to 81:00help them with college education. And I support that program, and uh, and it's uh, a lot of my good friends that I made through I made being in the Chinese Professional Club, being in the Chinese Doctors Association, and uh, so I enjoy being active. And I feel like I've been able to help my fellow Chinese Americans, and encourage the younger generation as they go on to their education as well. But mainly for uh, you know, uh fellowship and friendship. 

ZC: And, why is it important--I guess you kind of touched on this, but why is it important for you to be involved in the Chinese American community?

JT: Um, well um mainly through the fellowship we have uh--you know, I find I have a lot in common with people that I meet through the Chinese Professional 82:00Club, Chinese Doctors Association. And so uh, our culture is very similar and the food that we would like to eat is similar, we like to go out to different restaurants to eat, and then we share our ideas with each other a lot. So. 

ZC: And, uh, and I guess yeah, [ZC to PL] do you have any questions? And are there any regrets you have in your life so far?

JT: No major regret. I feel very blessed to be where I am, to have a nice family, uh loving wife, good children, now granddaughter. Now I had a successful profession. And uh, so uh I have no regrets. I feel very blessed. 


ZC: And what do you think makes a good doctor?

JT: Well uh, I think uh concern for other people, I think is the most important criteria for a doctor. Is uh, your purpose is to help others feel better about themselves, what I do or to cure them of a disease, or to maintain their health, or cure their sickness and things like that. I think uh the main uh, thing about being a doctor is concern for fellow human beings and for their wellbeing. 

ZC: And uh, do you have any advice for aspiring doctors?

JT: Well uh, I would say you know of course, uh, plan on working hard, get the best education you can. You know the road is long, because uh, there's college, 84:00medical school, training, residency but uh, if you keep at it, it's worthwhile. Once you've finished, and you can have a very satisfying career, and so uh, my advice would be to uh, keep at it, and don't be discouraged.

ZC: And if your great-great-grandchildren were to watch this interview decades from now, what wisdom would you like to pass on to them?

JT: Well, uh I would like to say uh, know uh, do the best you can and fulfill God's destiny of your life, and uh, uh you know uh, I would say, uh care for others, you know, respect your elders, and uh you know uh, say to uh, live life 85:00to the fullest and enjoy all your blessings. 

ZC: Any questions?

PL: Um This goes back to when you were going to Kincaid with the scholarship, was that something you specifically applied for or was it something that like was chosen amongst the high schoolers?

JT: Oh, well it was uh, um I frankly had not ever heard of Kincaid, when I was a youngster, I had just been through public schools all the way through. And I was in the junior high school orchestra, I played the violin and next to me was a young lady, Betsy Morse, who had an older brother who went to Kincaid, and she said he was just very, very bright and was doing very well. And after junior high school, Betsy was planning to apply to Kincaid, and uh, and I said, well I 86:00never heard of Kincaid, must be a good school. And I said, can I follow you and uh, apply. And so she said, sure. And so I went with her one Saturday, and took the entrance examination uh, and uh, and then about a week or so later, the Kincaid principal called my dad and said, you know we'd like -- back then I was called Jimmy, we'd like have him come to Kincaid, and we'd like to offer him a full scholarship. And so my parents said, well a full scholarship to go to a good school. Can't turn that down, so they said by all means, you know go. I did have to pay for books and all that. You know travel was a was a factor, 'cause we lived forty-five minutes away, and then I wasn't of driving age when I got in, so my mother and Betsy's mother had to take turns driving us. So they'd be 87:00driving forty-five minutes one way, forty-five minutes from home, and in the afternoon, would pick us up. And in my junior year, I finally got a license to drive. And was able to drive myself, but uh, it was challenging. So uh, yeah I was one of very few in my class. There were others that were offered full scholarship to Kincaid, some were offered half-scholarships to help us financially. Because frankly, otherwise, we would not be able to go to a private school. So I was planning to go to public school all the way through. And having that opportunity, I took advantage of it. 

ZC: And uh, where did your father work?

JT: Worked uh, he was a mechanical engineer so one of the companies he worked for back then was called Brown and Root and it's now uh called, Halliburton, 88:00which my oldest son is working now so kind of ironic that his grandfather used to work at the same company he's working at now. Another company my dad used to work for is called Bechtel Corporation it's a construction company headquartered in San Francisco. And uh they build refineries around the world, things like that. That's what my father did, helping them design the piping to the refineries. 

PL: Or I guess the last question I had: there's a lot of languages in your family and what did you, what did you want your sons to speak at home?

JT: Well, of course it's most important that they speak English and know English well, so that's what we concentrated on. And all our sons you know uh, went through public school here and are fluent in English, and uh and they you know 89:00studied English all the way through school. Uh, uh we really didn't teach our children any Chinese, uh, they have a smattering of it, just from being around us. But my youngest son John, when he went to Princeton took an interest in Chinese courses in Princeton. Spent two summers learning Chinese in Beijing. And then after graduation spent a year teaching English in China and actually became fluent in Chinese. And so my youngest son is the most fluent in all of us in Mandarin, in Chinese. 

ZC: Okay--thank--uh do you have nay else you would like to add?

JT: No. 


ZC: Thank you for your time it was very um informative. 

JT: Well thank you, it's an honor, a privilege to be asked to participate in this project. So thank you very much. 

PL: Thank you. 

[End of Interview] 

Houston Asian American Archive

Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University