The initial impression is always that we are subservient.: Becoming Minnesotan

Dr. Maryam Beltran Shapland, Emergency Physician at Woodwinds Hospital, Woodbury
  • Name - Maryam Beltran Shapland
  • Age at interview - 34
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 01.25.2011
  • Maryam Beltran Shapland on a medical mission in Guyana, 2006.
    Maryam Beltran Shapland on a medical mission in Guyana, 2006.

    Filipino, Gender Roles, Identity, Work

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    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Immigrants face many challenges as they adjust to life in a new place that has different foods, housing, music, schooling, transportation, and so many other new things. However, the prejudices and racism they face are the most challenging. Sometimes the prejudice they face may be subtle; others may be judging them using stereotypes or making conclusions based on appearance and not even be aware they are doing it themselves. This is a problem faced not only by new immigrants, but by members of any distinct group in a society.

    To learn more about Filipino history and culture, visit our Filipino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Maryam Shapland (MS)

    Interviewer: Lita Malicsi (LM)

    LM: You did your residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland?

    MS: Yes.

    LM: How were you accepted by colleagues? Was your ethnic background ever an issue? Now, we’re going back to the issue here of ethnicity and all that. Was it ever an issue?

    MS: I think initially, because when you look at me, especially back then, I’m short. I’m petite.

    LM: Young-looking.

    MS: Young, exactly. I looked like I was about high school age. I guess people’s first impressions of me, up until now, is, “Oh, she’s sweet, she’s nice, she’s smiley. She must be easy to push around.” And I think once I established myself as somebody that they can’t push around and that give orders better than take orders, then I think the respect came and my appearance didn’t become a detriment anymore, once they knew who I was and what I can do.

    LM: Now, again, how long did you have to go through that kind of proving myself type experience?

    MB: Ohhh, three years in residency, probably two years, and then my last year in residency it became a lot easier. Certainly, little old me ordering a six-foot-two nurse, two hundred pound nurse or somebody who was older than me, it’s tough to establish that presence. It took me probably my first year in residency to really get the courage and the determination and the confidence, and then my second year was much better, and then my third year, people were afraid of me.

    LM: Ah ha.

    MB: I actually made some people cry, which I didn’t mean to but — well, maybe I did, because they were not being nice. You have to establish respect and some people were not respectful and so I let them know that.

    LM: All right. Do you feel that Asian women are respected the way they should be by the rest of America?

    MB: I do not. I think that the initial impression is always that we are subservient and that we will say, “Yes, ma’am,” “Yes, sir,” and that we are weak-willed and not very opinionated. And I think that you have to establish that right away, that you’re not somebody to be messed with. I do it every day with my patients. I have to establish that, “No, I don’t look like I should be the doctor, but I am the doctor. I know that you think that I’m not the one making the decisions, but I am the one making the decisions!” It’s something that I think as petite Asian women, in general, we have to establish that presence all the time.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: A fellow member of a profession, staff, academic faculty or other organization; an associate.


    Noun: A cause of harm or damage.


    Adjective: Of or relating to a group of people having common racial, national, religious or cultural origins.


    Noun: The common characteristics of a group of people; one's ethnic group.


    Noun:  The overall effect of something on a person.


    Adverb:  At the beginning.


    Noun: The position or term of a medical resident, a graduated medical student who is receiving advanced training in a specialty.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2148