Troy native one of Forbes Magazine’s ‘30 Under 30’

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published December 21, 2021

 Troy native Peter Hao was recently named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for his work in the health care industry helping communication between China and the rest of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Troy native Peter Hao was recently named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for his work in the health care industry helping communication between China and the rest of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo provided by Peter Hao

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TROY — A Troy native has been named one of Forbes Magazine’s coveted “30 Under 30” for 2021.

Peter Hao, who lived in Troy from ages 2 to 18, is the managing editor at the China CDC Weekly, an English-language journal that serves as a national public health bulletin and disseminates information from China’s health industry and culture to the rest of the world. He played a crucial role in helping communicate what was happening in China regarding the pandemic to the rest of the world.

“The work from the last two years was the hardest I’ve ever worked,” said Hao. “Knowing that I’m so uniquely suited to this role, it’s hard to find someone else to step into it. The work I’ve done has positioned me between the U.S. and China, and that’s a point of view that very few people have. I hope to stay in these health focused roles, making those connections between China and the rest of the world possible. My parents are Chinese, but I grew up in Troy, so there is a culture gap. I have not had a break in two years longer than four days, and even in those four days people were calling me. I think I do need to come home and take a break, but I would like to continue working between the two countries in a similar way.”

As an American citizen, Hao was the only foreign national in China’s First-Level COVID-19 Response Team and was the only native English speaker on staff of the China CDC Weekly. Hao’s past teachers back in Troy, such as Troy High School English instructor Laura Liamini, said they knew he had a bright future ahead of him back when he was a student.

“Peter was a seeker as a student — spurred on to reflect further on texts that were ambiguous and multifaceted,” Liamini said in an email. “I remember he came back to visit as a freshman in college and connect between an absurdist play he’d picked up and what writing and thinking we’d done in class — Peter would create places for his knowledge to deepen and thrive.”

Hao first came to China as part of a teaching fellowship in 2017 after graduating from the University of Michigan. Seeing the lack of communication between China and the rest of the world in health-related matters, he earned a master’s degree in global health science. He then worked in Beijing as part of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, which has ties to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“(The CDC) decided to recruit me to help with this new academic journal,” Hao explained. “The China CDC Weekly’s mission is to bridge China’s research and data to the rest of the world and to act as a global platform to share data and perspectives. I’m still the only native speaker in this role. All of this work has been passed through my hands on COVID-19. In this case, over the course of the last two years we’re garnered several million page views and citations. The importance of the journal has increased exponentially. We were cited by CNN last week when they were talking about China and how its borders are still closed.”

Hao was uniquely suited for the role of helping bridge communication gaps between China and the rest of the world.

“The reason I was recruited for this assignment was because I have a double major in English literature and biochemistry,” he said. “I went on to get a global health sciences degree. With those three degrees, I have the basic science aspects covered, a strong English background and the basic health background.”

Hao recalls the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019.

“Initially, no one thought it would be … that big of a deal. My bosses were connected to the biggest decision makers. They thought it would be a small outbreak, which happens frequently in China, like with flus or food poisoning. There wasn’t an attitude of panic at the beginning. I began to see how serious it was going to be two days before New Year’s when my boss called me down. There was an attitude a week later when the frontline workers were pulled from Beijing to go to Wuhan, we started to see that this was going to be a big deal. When we started reporting the data, it was indescribable this sense of rising panic and how people started to see how serious this was going to be.”

Once the medical community began to see how deadly COVID-19 could be, information needed to flow with the utmost haste into and out of China. That was where Hao came in.

“There were four weeks between the first cases and Wuhan just shutting down. Suddenly there was this huge flood of information. Seeing the whole thing emerge was indescribable. Seeing the lack of concern from the global community was staggering. My parents visited a few weeks before everything got serious and they urged me to come back to Michigan, but I knew this was going to be important, so I knew I had to stay. I didn’t want to be away from where things were happening. I was living through that part of history.”

Hao was convinced by some friends to apply for the “30 Under 30” competition.

“So, as we were doing the international work, a few colleagues noticed this crucial role I was playing in bridging this gap between China and the rest of the world,” said Hao. “One of them had applied for the 30 under 30 before and asked if I wanted to submit myself. After I did, Forbes reached out to me with some questions, and they said this was one of the most competitive years they’ve ever had, so I was very lucky to get in. My role in the COVID response from the side of China was really why I got (selected for 30 Under 30). For the first three to four months starting in about January of 2020, I was working pretty much nonstop for 14 hours a day for about four months. There was so much data and information we had to go through, and I had to translate, rewrite or interpret from their data. I had to turn it into something both usable and understandable by the global community.”

Liamini and other Troy High School staff members expressed their pride in Hao’s achievement.

“As a high schooler, Peter was a beautiful writer who would find the expression for which others were searching,” she wrote. “He communicated with precision and control. I’m proud to hear that his incisive writing has helped inform the public and disseminate vital information about global health during the pandemic.”

Hao said he believes the biggest issue between countries like the United States and China is communication and understanding. By improving those aspects, many problems can be prevented or repaired. Hao has certainly done a lot on that front.

“The interests between the U.S. and China are not as misaligned as they seem,” said Hao. “It appears that way in the media sometimes with data not being shared, but it’s not really true. I think the biggest thing is miscommunications. Governmental organizations have a natural bureaucracy. Most of the stiffness I see in international bodies really comes down to misunderstandings. I think through efforts like me and my editorial office, we are working very hard to share the relevant data with the world and make this kind of sharing and cooperation more common.”

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