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WomenStories Star, Teresa Jen Small, M.D.
When the WomenStories video series is completed, Teresa Small, M.D. will have starred in Chemotherapy, Radiation and Life After Breast Cancer. Terry was born in Hong Kong and at age thirteen immigrated with her four sisters and her mother to San Francisco where her grandparents lived. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in biochemistry, she immediately left for Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, where she met her husband, Bruce. After graduation, she came to Buffalo to get married and start her medical internship at SUNY at Buffalo Medical School. Her first baby, Louis, was born on the last day of her training. During the next twenty-five years Terry was a diagnostic radiologist at four different local hospitals and clinics and ended up at Windsong Radiology, where she works now. “When my children were small," Terry says, “everything was a blur: driving to schools, day care, soccer games and singing children’s songs in the car.” But she survived, always working full time, and now her two older boys are on their own, Louis is a paralegal in San Francisco and Joe is on a Fulbright Scholarship in Japan. Danny, the youngest, is in 9th grade and still at home.

Being an immigrant, Terry had to find her identity in America. The first challenge was how to fit into a school of 2,000 and to learn enough English to move from special classes for immigrants and advance to regular classes. Terry not only succeeded in regular classes but was admitted to Lowell High School, the public school with the highest academic standing in San Francisco. Even there she struggled with literature, puzzling her way through Huckleberry Finn and Julius Caesar and struggling to write papers about literature whose language was far from Chinese. Her solution: to focus on sciences where language is not an issue. Originally she wanted to be an internist, then an ophthamologist, but she decided on radiology because she likes to figure things out. In recent years mammography has become very important and widespread. She was drawn to that field, initially by need and later by interest because she is a breast cancer survivor.

Terry was in the US for eighteen years before she returned to Hong Kong in 1980 and later to China in 1996. She and her husband took her two oldest boys 15 and 13, to Hong Kong and China to visit relatives. It took her a week to get back to speaking Chinese comfortably. She even visited her old school, a Methodist school, one evening and was let into building by the cleaning woman. She felt she did not belong in China having been so long in the US. It was a chance to get back to her roots, but she was happy to return to America.

WomenStories salutes Dr. Small for her long journey from Hong Kong to the US and eventually to become part of our video series. She is an inspiration to all who hear her sensitive thoughts about the breast cancer experience.