A primary care doctor, he completed his U.S. training in 1999 with a residency at the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center.
Zhang told VOA Mandarin the biggest challenge he faced to be able to practice medicine in the U.S. was “definitely the language but another big difference is the system, insurance kind of stuff. I had never heard about … medical insurance, or Medicare, Medicaid.”
He practices at the Springhill Medical Group in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco, where he treats patients who are “white, they are Black, Spanish or Pacific Islander.”
He told VOA Mandarin he admitted the county’s first COVID-19 patient after being called to a local emergency room.
“I can tell you exactly the day …March 1st. … Everything, the data, matched whatever we were learning from China’s experience.”
The county’s first COVID-19 patient turned out to be one of Zhang’s own, “a healthy young guy, and he had no idea where he got it.”
After the examination, Zhang left the hospital, opened all his car’s windows, drove home, parked, stripped and rushed to take a shower without stopping to talk to his wife.
“It's actually in my over 20-something years of practice, the first time when (I realized) my own life may be in danger because I saw this patient,” said Zhang.
According to an investigation by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, of the 3,561 health care workers who have died on the U.S. front line as of January, 21% were Asian/Pacific Islanders.
One who survived COVID-19 is Tsering Dechen, 28, a Tibetan who arrived in the U.S. in 2010 after finishing high school in Nepal, following her mother’s urging to get a good education.