Monday, February 3, 2014

Spotlight on Hyphen Heroine Fiona Ma, Hepatitis B Woman Warrior

Among her many roles and achievements, Fiona Ma is a pioneering politician who was elected to the California 12th District Assembly, as well as a business entrepreneur who started her own accounting practice to combat the career glass ceiling that exists for many women.

I first met Fiona at the annual Be a Hep B Warrior organized by AsianWeek Foundation where she was the keynote speaker. Her staunch demeanor combined with her low-key humor kept the large audience of about 500 fully attentive. The impression I arrived at was that nothing -- nothing -- gets in Ma’s way.

Before launching into an impassioned appeal in her speech for greater awareness and regular testing, Ma talked about her own history with the virus. At age 22, she went to donate blood and was rejected when HBV was found in her bloodstream. After receiving the rejection notice, she asked her mother about it and was told that she was only a “silent carrier,” as was later confirmed by her Asian American doctor. It was after speaking to Ted Fang and Dr. Sam So at an AsianWeek Foundation press conference that Fiona finally got tested. Dr. Sam So had told her that she had chronic Hep B and that 1/4 of people like her would develop liver cancer or require a liver transplant. Since that April 2007 press conference, she immediately went to her doctor and insisted on a blood test and liver ultra sound, to which her doctor reluctantly complied. Fiona also encouraged her entire family to get tested and screened.

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