My partner Demi Wang and I are collaborating with the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center in Taipei, Taiwan. Our remote project will involve coding an accessible and informative English version of their website, offering English and arts lessons to staff and patients, and putting together collaborative musical performances for everybody in the hospital community to enjoy. Demi and I first learned about this hospital and its mission through our professor and friend, Dr. Hsiao-Mei Ku.
The Cancer Center, founded by Dr. Andrew Huang, embraces the core philosophy of treating a patient’s mind and body rather than focusing solely on the medicalized aspects of healing. We found this mission highly compelling and kept contact with the hospital’s various administrators for a span of several months. After learning about the Cancer Center’s current needs, we eventually developed the general outline for our project and adapted the components to its current remote format.
We aspire for our project to ultimately make progress in realizing this Cancer Center’s mission, and we wish to foster company and comfort with the patients we interact with. Having firsthand experience with the feelings of alienation and unease that an overly medicalized environment can evoke, we pursue everything with the hope to mitigate some of the stress that current and prospective patients are facing. One of the largest challenges that arises with this project, however, is the ability to build connections with patients when everything is placed in the virtual realm. I am most concerned about our ability to truly comprehend patients’ circumstances when everything is confined to a screen (i.e. What is the hospital environment they are in actually like? How do we optimize our perceptibility of what patients experience and feel day to day?).
In spite of this uncertainty, I make it a central goal to approach this project in humility — to search for what is often overlooked and to learn from it. Perhaps this learning process is what I look forward to the most. After my time with the people at the Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, I hope to have become more familiar with what genuine empathy is and to adopt the same humble, selfless mindset when I engage with other human beings in the future.