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Margaret Jessie Chung (張瑪珠), the first American-born Chinese woman to become a physician.  Born in Santa Barbara, California in 1889, Chung achieved recognition for her patriotic activities during WWII. During the war, Chung's was the place to be in San Francisco. Soldiers, movie stars, and politicians gathered at her home to socialize, to show their dedication to the Allied cause, and to express their affection for her.

Chung “adopted” over 1,000 U.S. servicemen, who nicknamed her “Mom Chung”, and was known for helping found WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). A pioneer in both professional and political realms, she adopted masculine dress and dated other women, such as writer Elsa Gidlow and entertainer Sophie Tucker. Dr. Margaret Chung passed in 1959; however, she lived an extraordinary life as the daughter of immigrants, a celebrity surgeon, and a wartime hero with her own small army of adopted sons.

-Museum of Chinese in America

Ing "Doc" Hay, 1890

This portrait of doctor Ing Hay (c. 1890) was taken when he was 19 years old. Doc Hay, as he was best known, was a prominent medical practitioner in the eastern Oregon town of John Day for more than 60 years.

In addition to the general store, Ing Hay practiced traditional Chinese medicine. He specialized in herbalism and pulsology, a technique that measures the pulse to diagnose medical problems. He became widely known for his ability to cure diseases that baffled American-trained doctors, and both whites and Chinese would travel from throughout the region to visit the modest office of the “China doctor.”

When the Kam Wah Chung building was reopened in the late 1960s after being boarded up for more than a decade, over 500 herbs and other medicines were discovered, one of the largest collections of traditional Chinese medicine in the United States.

The Oregon History Project

The Patriarch of the family, C.K. Ah-Fong settled in Boise in 1889. By 1893 he had established a shop on Idaho Street, in the first Chinatown. When Idaho adopted the American Medical Association standards it excluded Chinese herbalists from getting medical licenses and in 1899 refused Dr. Ah-Fong’s request for one. This soon changed when Judge Stewart reversed the Idaho Board’s decision.

According to a story told by the doctor’s great grandson Richard, the license came as a result of the Doctors ability to heal the wife of a governmental official. It is not known whether the story is true or not, but it is certain that Dr. Ah-Fong was one of only a few Chinese Herbalist in the United States to obtain a license. He and his wife were thought of highly by many in Boise as evidenced by Mrs. Ah-Fong’s funeral procession, which reportedly turned out the largest number of people in the history of the city.

- Boise State University


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