Dr. Edmund Dixon JungPosted: September 1, 2014
One of VA’s first medical doctors known to be of Asian American-Pacific Island heritage was Dr. Edmund Dixon Jung.
Edmund Dixon Jung was a third generation American of Chinese heritage, born to Ming and Mabel
Jung in California on January 29, 1914. He was the middle child to siblings Robert and Lucille and grew up in the San Francisco area. He attended and graduated from Stanford University then pursued a medical degree at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) where he graduated in 1944. He met his future wife, Haw Chan, while they both attended medical school. He enlisted at the Presidio with the U.S. Army medical department on June 24, 1943 and served in the South Pacific as a medical officer during World War II. [photo, left, 1937 Stanford University yearbook]
After his war service, he resumed his medical career. He undertook an internship at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, then completed his firstyear of residency at UCSF hospital before becoming a resident at the San Francisco VA hospital. At the time, he needed a total of 3 years’
residency for a specialty in internal medicine, but he stayed an extra year after being appointed Chief Medical Resident. He began his full-time career as a VA physician in 1951 at the Oakland VA hospital where he provided primary care to acutely ill veterans. He obtained additional training in allergies and was appointed as Chief of the Allergy section in 1959.
The original Oakland VA hospital closed in 1963 and many of its staff were transferred to the new VA hospital built in nearby Martinez. Dr. Jung enjoyed a respectful, professional working relationship with his VA coworkers for over 20 years. Near the end of the Vietnam War, a changing of the guard took place at the hospital as many of Dr. Jung’s colleagues retired. As new leaders took their places at the hospital, Dr. Jung encountered the first blatant racism in his long VA career. At the time, he was about 60 years old and at a point in his career where he could start making retirement plans; instead, according to his memoir, he undertook the fight of his life to stop a culture of racism that had taken hold at the hospital. After a long six-year fight, he finally won. He remained on-staff for several more years and retired in 1982 after 31 years as a VA physician.
In retirement, Dr. Edmund Dixon Jung and his wife, Dr. Haw Chan Jung, did not slow down. They became active in the creative arts community and, as alumni at the UCSF, devoted themselves to providing educational opportunities for others, regardless of race. Dr. Edmund Dixon passed away on October 28, 2006 at the age of 92.
[bottom photo taken in 2004; credit: Noah Berger photographer, courtesy of University of California-San Francisco]
His memoir, entitled “He’s a Chinaman”: http://goo.gl/NKYGvP
Story: Department of Veteran’s Affairs Historian