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Meet Edna Ma, MD

Today we’d like to introduce you to Edna Ma, MD.

Dr. Ma, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am a board-certified anesthesiologist, mother, and the author of two bilingual children’s books (English and Chinese) called Travel, Learn and See Your Friends 走学看朋友. These books were inspired by my son and his best friend who met in a Mandarin Immersion school in Los Angeles.

As referenced in a recent LA Times article, Chinese is the third most widely spoken language in LA and is reflected in the growing demographics. Having observed this language trend and paucity of Mandarin books for children, I decided to take it upon myself to create books that would meet this need.

Although I am not a native speaker of Mandarin, I wanted my children to learn a second language and Mandarin was an option at our local public school. I also noticed the majority of my son’s classmates came from families without native Mandarin speakers. Since I am essentially illiterate in Mandarin, it was impossible for me to read to my children in Mandarin with the existing book selection on the market. Sensing that I wasn’t alone in my dilemma, I decided to create my own stories in a format that could be read by beginner, intermediate or advanced Chinese and English readers. English, Mandarin (the Chinese Characters) and pinyin (the phonetic spelling of the Chinese characters) appear side-by-side on the page, facilitating language acquisition.

Currently, two of three stories are published. In the third book, the two best friends visit the Great Wall of China. The children learn that despite the Wall, their northern neighbors managed not only to invade but ruled China for over 350 years. The children learn that building bridges instead of walls is a better way to be a neighbor. I’m aiming to publish this book later this year.

Also of interest, I was a previous contestant of SURVIVOR (yes, the TV show, now celebrating its 40th Season!), Shark Tank, and The DoctorsTV show.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
One person’s obstacle is another person’s learning opportunity, right?! The hiccoughs along my publishing pathway have been nothing compared to the ups and downs compared to my first business. After graduating from anesthesiology residency, I launched a start up called BareEASE, a prep kit that numbs the skin before waxing or laser hair removal. In my attempts to raise money for my business, I attempted to try out for Shark Tank (in season 2 at the time) but ended up on SURVIVOR Island. What an adventure! I was voted out on day 32 of 39 days and didn’t win the million-dollar prize. That month on SURVIVOR taught the meaning of persistence and not giving up. When the sun sets, the contestants don’t check into a hotel! It’s real survival with only the clothes on your back with a constant struggle of trying to avoid being backstabbed! Two years later, I did pitch the five famous TV investors on Shark Tank. Although I didn’t land a deal with any of the TV sharks, I did partner with a private equity group after the episode was aired.

Since then, I’ve become the mother of two children, now 8 and 5 years old. As any parent attests, children become the center of your lives. Mine are no different. My husband and I wanted to give our children the gift of a second language.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As an author, I am most proud that my books are based on my son and his best friend’s story. While many people advised me to use fictional characters, it was important for me to share (with his parents’ permission!) our real friendship with our readers. The stories I’ve created are fictional events, but the friendships are real. I wanted to demonstrate that friendships can form despite cultural and ethnic differences, and language bridges us together. Dean and Ethan are my real-life inspiration and I hope they bring inspiration to our readers. Representation matters. It was and is still important for me to show children from different backgrounds coming together, sharing and learning from each other.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
That’s a tough question! The reason that’s a difficult question to answer is because success is personal, yet dynamic and specific to each situation. Someone can be a successful business personal but their personal life could be in shambles. So I’m answering this based on my own definition. Success should have an element of recognizing that personal goals have been achieved. This could be as making your first sale or savoring moments with the people who love and support you. Success is doing something you enjoy, that gives you purpose (it gets you out of bed in the morning!), being fulfilled while doing it (gosh, I’m making the world better place), and being grateful for the opportunity to do that work.

If you asked this question to me as a college student, I would have responded, “Graduating from medical school and entering a specialty of my choice.” Now that I have achieved this goal, I’ve made other objectives. In psychology, there is a term called hedonic adaptation that describes a person’s ability return to one’s baseline or stable level of emotional happiness after a significant life event. My layman’s understanding is that people habituate to their circumstances despite achieving one’s goals. Personally, I constantly set goals for myself so I force myself to continue to grow. When I’m outside my comfort zone, I know I am growing.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shoots and Giggles, Shark Tank, Survivor, TheDoctors staff photographer, Danielle Wang, Lilly Chan.

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