BPH student Tracy Lam-Hine finds new focus on multiracial Americans

UC Berkeley School of Public Health graduate student Tracy Lam-Hine studies how multiracial people experience racism differently from those who are monoracial (those who can trace their ancestry to a single racial group).

“I’m hoping to extend that field of inquiry from education and psychology into epidemiology,” Lam-Hine says, “and study how this type of racism, called monoracism, can affect health.” Lam-Hine himself is multiracial: his father is White American while his mother is an immigrant from China.

Lam-Hine grew up a little north of Berkeley, in Benicia, California, a Solano County town on the Carquinez Strait. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2010 with an undergraduate degree in economics, he spent time working in strategy consulting in the healthcare industry.

I was “generally helping big companies save money or make more money,” Lam-Hine says. “I did that for two years and then moved to a foundation which focused on funding workforce development programs.” Along the way, he picked up an MBA from the University of Washington, but an interest in public health was a throughline throughout his career.

“I actually wrote my [undergraduate] application essay to Cal about public health,” Lam-Hine says. “During SARS [a previous coronavirus outbreak that hit China in 2002], I was in high school visiting Taipei  with my parents when the outbreak started there.”

He wasn’t infected, but when his family returned to the US, he had to quarantine for two weeks and the whole experience gave him a peek into the world of public health. He wanted to study biostatistics and epidemiology as a Cal undergrad but wasn’t accepted into the program. But his later foundation focus on workforce development was firmly rooted in public health.

“I wrote and applied to the DrPH program thinking I’d do something related to workforce development, very in the realm of social economics,” he says now. But then he interned at the Marin County Health Department last summer.

“In the health data I kept looking at, I saw there were just no data on multiracial people,” he says. “If they are included, they are just a homogenous group. But someone who’s Afro-Latino and lives in Miami is going to have a different experience than someone who is Asian and White in Texas. The lack of critical attention to the concept of race in epidemiology is something that is striking to me.”

“I have been interested in race for a long time, it’s something I’ve experienced my entire life,” he explains. “‘Who are you, what are you, what category do you fit in?’ has been a defining feature of my life. Socioeconomic position is a determinant of health but so much in our country is built on institutional racism. I’m much more interested in race and how racism influences health.”

And after he finishes his degree in spring 2022? “I think my goal is to continue working in applied epidemiology,” he says now. “I don’t see myself going the tenure track faculty route, but my hope is to work in applied epi and to help bring some of that critical health theory to applied public health.”