Minority Health Month – An Interview with ACP President Dr. Henry Chen

[avatar user=”hchen” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”http://www.acppps.org/who-we-are/henry-chen/”]By: Henry Chen, MD[/avatar]April is Minority Health Month, and ACP interviewed Dr. Henry Chen, a leading community-based Primary Care Physician in private practice for more than 20 years in New York City, where he manages the health care of patients in the Asian communities of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Dr. Chen also is a co-founder and President of Advocate Community Providers.

How would you assess the overall health of the Chinese population in New York? What is unique to the Chinese community?

Dr. Chen: The situation is complex and varied. The Chinese community faces the additional challenge of a unique language barrier in navigating a healthcare system that assumes English fluency. Generally speaking, however, the overall health of the Chinese population in New York is similar to that of other residents.

What are the most prevalent health problems you see among your patients?

Dr. Chen: Prevalent health problems in my patients include high incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by smoking.

What are some of the challenges to treatment?

Dr. Chen: An enduring challenge to treatment is patient compliance in following instructions, including timing and dosage of medication and other treatment guidelines. Additionally, the challenge of the language barrier is something for which time and resources have to be devoted.

Do you see differences across generations, for example, millennial patients versus elderly, or first generation versus immigrant?

Dr. Chen: The older generations of patients have a greater difficulty with the language barrier, as well as a higher incidence of chronic conditions often associated with strenuous labor activity in their youth.

What are the greatest obstacles to better health for the Chinese community?

Dr. Chen: Increased resources and funding for education to increase patient literacy and compliance is a significant issue for improving the health of the Chinese community.

Is there an anecdote to illustrate a typical patient?

Dr. Chen: Recently I spoke with a 90-year-old patient who previously had been hospitalized for severe vascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by smoking. When advised to quit smoking, the patient stubbornly replied that smoking is enjoyable, and that it’d become a fixed part of his life. His health has worsened to the point where amputation of a leg damaged by severe ischemia is being considered.

What works? What techniques are most effective in encouraging lifestyle modification? Improving health literacy?

Dr. Chen: If a patient personally experiences a particular condition and is treated effectively, he or she becomes a kind of community spokesperson for that condition: encouraging, recommending, and reminding others of treatment details and compliance. Additionally, patient medical education as spread by word-of-mouth or via local Chinese language newspapers is effective.


Dr. Henry Chen is a Board-Certified Internist, geriatrician, and licensed physician acupuncturist. He is past President of the Association of Chinese American Physicians (ACAP, 2006-2008); Founder and VP of the Eastern Chinese American Physician IPA (ECAP), and Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization (CCACO).

Dr. Chen graduated from Guangzhou Medical College, majoring in Medicine, and graduated from the Sun Yat Sen University of Medical Science with a Master’s degree in Surgery. Dr. Chen completed a three-year intensive residency training program in Internal Medicine at the New York Hospital of Queens (Cornell Medical School).