In Honor of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Annie Wu – Why Family, School Make a Winning Combination

By Jennie L. Ilustre for Asian Fortune Magazine
Annie Ai-Li Wu’s father is a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital. But that is not the main reason she decided to be a doctor. “My initial interest in medicine began when I was about age seven, when I learned that my nine-year old brother was battling leukemia,” she recalled. The gravity of his illness hit her when she saw him start losing his hair at the age of ten.
Annie often accompanied him to his doctor’s appointments.  “Seeing the doctors’ noble act – restoring the health and well- being of my brother – was what first inspired me to pursue medicine,” she said.
 
Watching her brother’s courageous battle inspired her to be a part of his healing process. On weekends, she would deliver teddy bears from family and friends, write stories to amuse him, and sit down to talk with him late at night.
 
During weekdays, she gave him words of encouragement. Also, she never missed a day bringing his assignments from Calvert School in Maryland, where she was also a pupil, and then submitting his work to his teachers.
 
Her brother endured three years of chemotherapy before he was cured.  He resumed his studies. Years later, he went on to graduate from Stanford University as a Drama major with a concentration in Directing before attending NYU Tisch School of the Arts for a Masters in Film Directing. Today, he’s an independent filmmaker and movie editor in New York City. (Annie has a younger sister, who is currently an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University pursuing a major in Art History and minor in Art.)
 
In 2000, Annie’s favorite show was “Hopkins 24/7,” the ABC TV show about Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors and their patients. “Little did I know that 15 years later, I would be a medical student and have the opportunity to be taught by many of these doctors depicted on the show,” she said.
 
Today, Annie is a student in the Graduate Program in Immunology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, She is studying how cancer vaccines developed in the lab can affect host immunity and significantly impact patient care.
 
Strong Foundation
Currently, Annie is wrapping up her Thesis project. Starting next year, she will be on her way to completing the last two years of medical school. She will even be busier as she balances attending to hospital patients, presenting cases to her team, and studying for shelf exams.
 
She said that among other things, being an alumna of Calvert School has helped her cope with challenges. “What was unique about Calvert was that we had monthly report cards with two grades: A for effort and 1 for aptitude,” she said. “Thus, we were taught the importance of process, not just result, and if we put in enough effort, we could all achieve a positive result.”
 
“This mindset has served as an important driving force for my entire training in medical and graduate school, where I am constantly challenged to learn new medical terminologies and master difficult skills,” she said.
 
She added: “Calvert School provided me with a fundamental education that has prepared me for all sorts of challenges. At Calvert, I developed discipline at a very young age. For instance, after a Spelling test, I not only received a grade for accuracy, but I also had to write the correct spelling of a word ten times below the misspelled word.”
 
When she was 11 years old, she won the Junior Athletic Cup given to the most athletic girl in class. This was a culmination of winning 1st place blue ribbons from Track and Field Days for long distance running, short distance running, and hurdles, and excelling in the Presidential Physical Fitness Tests of endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, speed, agility, and flexibility.
 
Remarked Annie: “I am thankful that Calvert School required us to participate in sports every single day, as physical fitness has remained a key part of my life today.”
 
Calvert School taught her the importance of being well-rounded and having hobbies at a young age. For her, tennis helps her live a balanced life.  “In college and medical school, I played tennis every weekend, which has helped me cope with stress, remain emotionally healthy, and connect with medical school peers and doctors,” she added.
 
Modern Technology
Annie also noted Calvert School’s policy to welcome modern technology, when students used their own laptop for schoolwork. She recalled: “At that time, it was unknown whether computers would have a positive or negative impact on learning at such a young age. I was 11 then. However, Calvert School believed in equipping students with the latest tools to keep up with the changing times. For me, writing stories became much faster to type and edit after that.”
 
Creative writing was her favorite extracurricular activity at Calvert. At first, they learned how to write stories with simple sentence structure. One day, each student was assigned to write about “My Perfect Day.” She said, “It was astonishing when, at the age of eight, we found our stories published on the front page of The Baltimore Sun.”
 
She said her most memorable teacher was Madame Havard. Thanks to her, Annie learned to speak fluent French and fall in love with the food and culture. Madame Havard inspired her to pursue multiple languages in high school, including Chinese and Latin. To this day, Annie tries to pick up phrases in other languages when she travels.
 
Giving Back
Asked if she takes after her mother or father in outlook and traits, Annie said she is a combination of her parents, with their work ethic, dedication to excellence and consideration to others. Her father is a gynecologic pathology specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His name is Dr. Tzyy-Choou Wu, but he’s best known as T.C. Her mother, Lee Shu-Fune Wu, is a biostatistician for international health studies at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
 
She said her parents are thoughtful and considerate of others. Her mother, for instance, is generous to her friends, colleagues, and community. “My parents’ example has inspired me to give back to the people who have helped me along the way,” said Annie. “I make sure to donate to the annual fund or volunteer at Calvert School whenever I can.”
 
Currently, Annie is an active member of Calvert School’s Alumni board. She is a volunteer for A Night on the Town, which is Calvert’s community-wide annual fundraiser that provides teachers with resources and professional development.
 
This volunteer work entails contacting sponsors for the event, selecting a venue to host 200 people, advertising to the Calvert community about ticket sales, and organizing the auctions and raffles the night of the event.
 
“It is a wonderful way to bring the entire community together for a good cause and provide opportunities for social networking,” said Annie. “The amount of effort and organization behind-the-scenes that is put into this event monthly by the school, the parents, and alumni volunteers is truly inspiring to see.”
 
Calvert School 
Annie’s achievements and her profound commitment to help others have not gone unnoticed at Calvert School.
 
Asked to comment on Annie’s volunteer work, Calvert School Head Master Andrew Holmgren remarked: “Annie continuously displays the deep-rooted characteristics of a Calvert alumna, including a passion for lifelong learning, a commitment to academics, and a responsibility to serve and help others.”
 
“Since her time at Calvert, Annie has excelled as a leader within the medical and scientific fields,” he noted. “As a noted published author, she has already begun to pave the way for important new medical research. Her passion for solving challenges and helping others is evident in every facet of her life.”
 
“In addition to her research and studies, Annie has committed her time to community work and service,” he said. “At Calvert, she is an incredibly active volunteer, serving on Calvert’s Alumni Board and several fundraising and event committees. Each year, Annie successfully rallies support from her peers thanks to her positivity and appreciation for the school.”
 
Director of Academic Affairs Sarah Crowley said Calvert School is proud to count Annie among its alumni. “At Calvert, we teach children and young adolescents the habits and routines of being a curious learner and an effective student – all within the context of active community engagement, on and off campus.”
 
”Through her ongoing achievements as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, as well as her significant involvement and presence within the Calvert community, Annie embodies the intersection of academic excellence and community engagement that Calvert is known for,” she added.
 
According to Calvert School’s website,   its mission is “to develop students of high academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, and strong moral character within a supportive and diverse community.” Below are excerpts from its website. For more information, visit www.calvertschoolmd.org
 
“At Calvert, an emphasis is placed on creative thinking and problem-solving. Integral to the Calvert program is instruction in methods of organizing work, studying for tests, and preparing and presenting research papers. Teachers help children understand and learn from their mistakes. By requiring students to correct their work, teachers encourage accountability, pride in work, and a sense of accomplishment.
 
“Music, French, Latin, Spanish, Art, Art History, and Drama broaden the artistic and cultural horizons of our students, encouraging creativity and self-expression. Our strong, varied physical education and athletic program provides for physical development and fosters good sportsmanship.
 
“At Calvert School, the youngest students begin their education with a focus on the fundamentals. Children are taught the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics to develop a mastery of these subjects through their course of study in the Lower School.
 
“By Tenth Age, students have mastered the fundamentals and are ready to enter the Calvert Middle School with a sense of purpose and pride in their work.”
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Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.

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