Interviewed by Violeta Salazar
Tell the readers about yourself! Name, education, hobbies, and anything else you would like to add!
My name is Tiffany Yu and I am a student at UC Berkeley by day and a social entrepreneur by night! I am the CEO of Modem, a lifestyle and wellness digital media company for Gen Z and Millennial Asian Americans. In addition to sending out a weekly newsletter on topics related to Asian American wellness, we offer free culturally competent holistic health services for the Asian American community. When I’m not running Modem, I can be found trying new recipes and going out on walks with my dog!
What inspired you to start Modem Health?
For as long as I could remember, I’ve been fascinated with the intersections of health, technology, media, and culture. In March 2020, in response to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes due to racism associated with the coronavirus pandemic, I co-founded and led Watercress, Medium’s first digital publication dedicated to highlighting the Asian American experience. I oversaw over 50 written pieces that were featured in Medium Politics, Culture, and Film. I also co-created and co-hosted Spilling the Cha, a podcast focused on dissecting the intricacies of Asian American intersectionality. In March 2020, in response to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes due to racism associated with the coronavirus pandemic, I co-founded and led Watercress, Medium’s first digital publication dedicated to highlighting the Asian American experience. I oversaw over 50 written pieces that were featured in Medium Politics, Culture, and Film. I also co-created and co-hosted Spilling the Cha, a podcast focused on dissecting the intricacies of Asian American intersectionality.
From March 2020 to currently, I discovered from conversations with many Asian Americans that wellness and mental health in the Asian American community was highly unaddressed. Even before the pandemic, mental health was a crisis among many Asian American students, with many lacking the resources and support to mental health services. For example, Asian American college students are significantly more likely than white students to report symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts but are three times less likely to seek professional mental health support compared to their white counterparts. Asian American students face many barriers to treatment, including cultural stigma, family pressure, and lack of culturally competent professional support. The anti-Asian sentiments, discrimination, and hate crimes that were instigated from the pandemic only exacerbated this mental health crisis for Asian Americans. Those experiences, alongside my background in health and tech, inspired me to found Modem, the first lifestyle and wellness media company for Asian Americans. Our newest initiative is Modem Health, which is a free monthly virtual care program by and for Asian Americans that provides free services in mental health, college and career planning, nutrition counseling, and sexual health consultation. My background is in health innovation, so I was particularly excited in developing Modem Health, which is the first comprehensive holistic health telehealth service for Asian Americans. We’re launching our pilot program in April with a final launch date set for May.
What is one misconception about mental health that you would like to disprove?
One misconception about mental health that I would definitely like to disprove is that self care is being selfish. I cannot stress the importance for taking time for yourself to recalibrate and to look after your individual needs, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual.
How has your racial and ethnic background impacted your work?
My background was what motivated me to start Modem! I grew up in a small town in the San Francisco Bay Area composed of a strong Asian American community, where the older generation and younger generation constantly walked side by side. It is a place where Chinese herb stores and supermarkets that have existed before I was born neighbor Asian fusion restaurants and popular boba milk tea franchises. It is a place where you can purchase a roasted duck prepared by a century’s old recipe and also purchase a Japanese souffle next door. It wasn’t until high school that I realized how much this community shaped my perspective. Living in a place where people who looked like me were unapologetic and powerful played a vital role in my assertion of my identity as a Chinese American. As a young girl walking on the streets, I discovered the power and pride of what representation meant to me, and why it was so important.