Name: Lisa Nina Cruz
I grew up in towns with few Filipinos. I became used to people asking, “Are you Chinese? Thai? Wait, why is your last name Spanish- what are you?!” I often informed people about Spain’s long history of colonizing the Philippines. I also emphasized that the Philippines is culturally very different from East Asian countries like China and Japan, despite people’s inclinations to lump all Asians into one group.⠀
I understood the ignorance, given the lack of representation in media. Similar to other POC, it was rare to see people on TV shows, in magazines, and find dolls to play with, that resembled me. I recognized early on that several doors were closed to me based on how I looked (no Hollywood for me!). While for years my feelings vacillated between being embarrassed and proud of my background, I now appreciate having unique cultural perspectives that helped me grow personally and professionally.⠀
After a career change (which is a story for another day), I decided to pursue a doctorate in psychology. The goal was influenced in part by my visits to the Philippines. I quickly learned that the “worst” parts of the US are still a step up from the majority of areas in the Philippines, that have typical third-world country characteristics. The densely populated capital with horrid infrastructure, the provinces with young girls running around barefoot, and the shantytowns with rags as roofs– seeing these motivated me to take advantage of the opportunities available to me in the “best country in the world.
I’m currently a 4th-year doctoral candidate in NYC. Even in a widely diverse city, I’m often the POC in a given work setting. No one in my extended family has a PhD and no one works in psychology. I took the plunge because the brain fascinates me and because psychology needs diverse voices. Ethnic minorities are underrepresented in behavioral health care, yet many disorders disproportionately affect them. I consider myself a direct response to this discrepancy. I hope to provide meaningful health care services for ethnic minorities and be a model for future ethnic minority psychologists.