Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed every May to celebrate the contributions that generations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have made to American history, society and culture. This year’s AAPIs Heritage Month theme is Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity.
This year we highlight Dr. Peter Tsai, a Taiwanese American materials scientist who invented the N95 respirator. He created the first N95 back in the early-1990s and intended it for industrial use including construction, mining and any other occupation that required workers to be exposed to nanoparticles increasing the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or black lung disease.
Only one year after Dr. Tsai patented the highly effective N95 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that the N95 could also block viruses and bacteria. This revelation made the N95 a staple in healthcare settings, and it has proven indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic where it continues to save lives.
At the height of the pandemic when N95 respirators were in short supply, Dr. Tsai came out of retirement to study the best way to sanitize and re-use N95s. Thanks to his contributions and lifelong dedication, Dr. Tsai has helped to save millions of lives and is a shining example of the positive impact Asian American and Pacific Islanders have had on our world.