- "My dad died when I was nine, in a car accident I was with him in the car. While we waited for the ambulance, I tried to keep his chest closed so he didn't bleed so much. When he died, my hands felt his heart stop beating. That's why I do this. It's also why I win all the contests. The patient's name is Tom."
- —Cristina Yang
Cristina Yang is a fictional surgeon. Though Yang has mentioned Jewish customs from her upbringing like Shiv'ah and at times has referred to herself as Jewish, she believes only in science and is a strong atheist. which is the ultimate reason she became a doctor with an express interest in cardiothoracic surgery and is likely to explain her behavior. She is a graduate of Beverly Hills High School and Smith College, and she earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley. She earned her M.D. from Stanford University, where she graduated first in her class.
Cristina is of Korean descent raised in Judaism (her mother converted upon re-marriage) and a native of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.
Her mother married Cristina's stepfather, Dr. Saul Rubenstein, an oral surgeon, three years after Cristina was born. Cristina's biological father died when she was nine years old in a car accident; Cristina watched her father bleed out before help arrived, attempting to close his chest with her hands, to try to stop the bleeding. She claims this is the reason she became a doctor, and could very likely be the motive behind her interest in cardiothoracic surgery.
Cristina is incredibly focused and driven (even more so than the others) and is always excited about the chance to scrub in on a surgery. Extremely competitive, she is not above stealing and hijacking patients if it means getting in on an exciting surgery. Cristina has excellent surgical skills, and is the intern with the most medical knowledge. However, she has difficulties conveying her feelings and dislikes being touched by anyone, including her mother. She also has a poor bedside manner and finds it hard to empathize with most patients.
Cristina values logic and practical thinking above emotional reasoning, but has undergone several emotional situations since becoming an intern. She has been described as cold, cut-throat and hardcore, which she defines as her "edge" and has helped her during her intership but has caused emotional problems in relationships such as with Burke and George who describes her as a "robot". Because of the traumatic experience of watching her father die, Cristina is unable to handle the emotional loss from the thought of losing her loved ones. While she initially grappled with the concept of expressing her feelings, Cristina has gradually become more comfortable with sharing her inner thoughts. Nevertheless, she is still considered the least emotional of all the interns.
Despite her strong personailty, when Meredith was unconscious after falling into the water during the ferry crisis, Cristina fled after she realized she could not deal with the fact that her "person" was dying. Burke encouraged her to confront her feelings, and she burst into the trauma room and insisted that the doctors try to revive Meredith again. Meredith soon woke up, and an overwhelmed Cristina happily told Meredith that she was getting married to Burke, and Meredith was the one person she wanted to tell.
Izzie tells Cristina about her cancer, and asks her not to tell anyone else. Cristina pulls every favour she possibly can and sets her up with the best surgical oncologist in Washington state, but Izzie blows it off, annoying Cristina. When confronted, Izzie is apathetic about the cancer, which makes Cristina wonder why she told her. While helping Izzie, Cristina becomes increasingly distracted on the day of her solo surgery and eventually told an OR of Izzie's illness, including Bailey and Alex.
While at Stanford Medical School, she began a romantic relationship with the renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and her professor, Colin Marlow. This relationship lasted for 3 years throughout her medical degree and the relationship ended as she finished medical school.
In “Shake Your Groove Thing,” Preston Burke gave Cristina a cup of coffee, causing her to be taken aback by the gesture. Later, touched by the fact that Burke admitted to having made a huge error in a surgery, Cristina followed Burke into the on-call room and locked the door. They proceeded to have sex. The next day, Burke tried to get Cristina to define their relationship, but a commitment-phobic Cristina brushed him off. She found out later that she was pregnant in “The Self-Destruct Button” and immediately scheduled an abortion.
Unable to deal with her emotions about the pregnancy and abortion, she distanced herself from a bewildered, frustrated Burke, telling only Meredith about her pregnancy, as she was her 'person'. Meanwhile, her covert relationship with Burke came out into the open after George saw them kissing and told Meredith and Izzie. After the Chief told Burke that he could only be interim Chief of Surgery if he was prepared to sacrifice his personal life, he decided to break up with Cristina. Although she pretended to not care, Cristina was hurt by his decision and decided against telling Burke about her pregnancy. However while in surgery with Burke in “Make Me Lose Control”, she collapsed from an ectopic pregnancy and her left fallopian tube burst. Burke was shocked to find out about the pregnancy, but Cristina reminded him that he broke up with her. Despite that, he was the only one whom she allowed to comfort her when she could not stop crying from her grief.
The couple reconciled and officially became a couple in “Bring the Pain.” When Cristina and Burke went on their first official date out of the hospital, they realized that they have almost nothing in common. Burke also noted that Cristina is “very hard to get to know” and she agreed. Although their relationship was dysfunctional, it was still going strong as they were clearly in love with each other.
Another obstacle in her relationship with Burke was their different beliefs. Burke is moderately religious and believes in spiritual traditions, while Cristina is a strong atheist who believes only in science and openly scoffs at any superstition and spiritual ideas. When she first found out about Burke's spirituality, Cristina was shocked, believing that a surgeon with his level of ambition and medical skill wouldn't have anything but a purely scientific mind. She began looking down on Burke for beliefs she considered irrational, while Burke was hurt and angry she wouldn't accept his spirituality. This clash in belief caused tension between Cristina and Burke, but it was subsequently resolved.
Cristina’s commitment issues resurfaced when Burke gave her a key to his apartment and asked her to move in with him. She felt that they did not know each other well enough yet, but Burke convinced her to open up to him. Cristina introduced Burke to her extremely messy apartment and lifestyle, but Burke accepted her for what she was. She eventually agreed to move in with Burke, but secretly kept her old apartment. The truth eventually came out and Burke was mad that Cristina had lied to him. Burke later confronts her, and talks to her about how competitive and stubborn she is, while he still loves her. Cristina replied saying that she gave up her apartment twenty minutes ago.
When George had a disastrous sexual encounter with Meredith and moved out of her place, Burke invited him to stay at his apartment. Cristina was jealous that George was able to relate better to Burke than she could, and she devised a way to make Burke kick out George himself. Insisting on her right to be comfortable in her own home, she went about naked in the apartment, and Burke was forced to evict George from their apartment.
Later, Burke became mad at Cristina when she unwittingly fell asleep during sex in “Damage Case.” During this conflict, Burke prevented Cristina from scrubbing in on several surgeries. This outraged Cristina, who hated the fact that her love life could have such a large impact on her work life. However, this argument ended abruptly when Burke was shot in the arm. When sent to the surgery room to help Burke during his intense, painful surgery, she panicked and fled, her turbulent emotions preventing her from acting. This event would impact her deeply,for she knew it wasn't like her at all to be controlled by her emotions in such a way. Later, she eventually returned to his side and held his hand. Burke’s recovery was not smooth-sailing and he discovered that he had developed a hand tremor. Burke later confided to Cristina about his hand tremor, and she told him that no-one has to know. They devised a covert partnership to hide Burke's tremors from the other doctors. In her best supportive way, she managed Burke’s surgery schedule and scrubbed in on all his surgeries, so that she could take over whenever his hand became too tired to proceed with surgery. However, her exclusivity to rare surgeries incited jealousy and suspicion from the other interns. George subsequently witnessed one of Burke’s hand tremors, and confronted Cristina about it. She frantically denied it, but suffered a crisis of confidence and eventually confessed ever ything to the Chief.
Cristina’s actions jeopardized Burke’s chances of becoming Chief of Surgery, and Burke saw this as a huge betrayal. Both parties refused to talk to each other after the fallout, jeopardizing their relationship. Cristina eventually broke the silence, and Burke asked her to marry him. Cristina was stunned and only accepted his proposal after eight days of hesitation. However, she refused to wear the ring he gave her, saying she doesn’t do rings.
Cristina's life was further complicated when her former professor and lover, Colin Marlow, arrived at Seattle Grace. In a bid to win her back, he repeatedly came onto her and tried to sabotage her relationship with Burke. On top of that, he joined the race for Chief of Surgery, so as to compete with Burke and impress her. Cristina resorted to acting extremely affectionate with Burke, after direct attempts at getting Marlow to leave Seattle Grace failed. However, Marlow was not convinced by this and used the opportunity of a rare surgery to lure Cristina to his side. Marlow humiliated Burke in the operating room by belittling Burke's knowledge of cardiothoracics, and relegated Burke to just observing the surgery. After the surgery, Cristina comforted him. Unbeknownst to her, Marlow witnessed the entire thing, telling her she had compromised herself for Burke, and was no longer the competitive and driven person he fell in love with. She responded by saying that she's learned that "sometimes you have to think about other people."
Following Burke's departure at the altar, she is devastated and remains so for a long time. Matters are not helped with the new cardiothoracic surgeon, Erica Hahn, hating her. Mama Burke apologizes to Cristina for Burke as well, for loosing him and her teacher, as she recognises that Cristina loved being surgeon more than Burke and that is likely to be why they bonded so well.
Cristina eventually moves past Burke and meets Owen Hunt, a former military surgeon who arrives at SeattleGrace when he performs a tracheotomy using a pen in the field, impressing Cristina. They passionately kiss later on and he treats her when she is stabbed through the chest with an icicle. Owen later joins the staff at Seattle Grace as the new head of trauma surgery, and Cristina avoids him because of the kiss. Hunt tells her he didn't return for her, but he does ask her out on a date but ends up turning up hours late and very drunk. Cristina starts to see that he is damaged from war and he admits to her that his entire platoon was killed in Iraq.
The relationship begins to blossom, with glances across rooms and stolen touches, like a Victorian romance novel, inspired by Ellis Grey's Journals, but they soon hit another roadblock when Owen's ex-finacé turns up at the hospital and it is revealed that Owen broke up with her in a two line email. Owen admits to Cristina he is not proud of that, but he is a different person than he was, and he is terrified of what people would think when they see him now, especially his mother, as he is not the person they sent to war.
Owen was quick to declare his feeling for Cristina after his return from the army, after the experienced had changed him. In episode 16 of season 5 he confessed he wanted to wanted to be around in 40 years to "rip the scalpel out of" Cristinas hands after she becomes to old to practice. Though they only had two failed attempted dates at that point.
Cristina accepts they move forward, until Owen's psychological damage from war begins to manifest itself as PTSD, first throwing Cristina into a shelf, requiring her to get stitches, and then strangling her in his sleep. Callie and Meredith take the defensive and prevent Owen from seeing her, but Cristina claims she is fine. The two have a moment and consummate their relationship, only for Cristina to break up with Owen because she is terrified of falling asleep next to him.Then soon to over come that fear gets back together with him. Owen eventually brings Christina a new cardio teacher who later confesses her love to Owen. Christina willingly falls in love with cardio and Owen chooses cardio. Owen eventually tells Cristina that he can't give her away.
Cristina is a very talented doctor, graduating first in her class from Stanford and a straight A student throughout college, and having an exceptional knowledge of surgery and medicine, with an express interest in Cardiothoracic surgery.
Cristina's biological father died when she was nine years old in a car accident; Cristina watched her father bleed out before help arrived, attempting to close his chest with her hands, to try and stop the bleeding. She claims this is the reason she became a doctor, and is very likely to be the motive behind her interest in cardiothoracic surgery.
Cristina Yang became an intern at Seattle Grace after graduating from medical school. On the first day of the internship, she hit it off with Meredith Grey. Cristina soon fell out with her because she felt that Meredith was given surgeries because of Derek’s favoritism and her famous mother, Dr. Ellis Grey. However, Cristina apologized to Meredith and the pair soon became fast friends. Her frequent sarcastic remarks and lack of tact made it hard for people to like her, but her fellow interns gradually took to her ways and became friends with her as well.
As per Burke’s instruction, she went to check on his patient Denny Duquette. She was shocked to find out that Izzie had cut his LVAD wire in order to secure him a new heart. Against her instincts, she stayed and together with Meredith and George, helped Izzie in her endeavor. Soon enough, Bailey stumbled upon their plan and banned them from surgeries until someone admitted to cutting the LVAD wire. To her own surprise, Cristina insisted on sticking together and helped prevent the truth from coming to light. When the Chief decided to interrogate each intern individually, Cristina begged to Chief to tell her how to regain her business-like focus, saying that she's become an emotional wreck, the complete opposite of who she'd once been. She asked the Chief to tell her how to avoid being emotionally-affected so that she could continue being a great surgeon, but he refused saying that he did not want to be responsible for her becoming less human.
Cristina hit a rough patch in her career when Dr. Hahn replaced Burke as Head of Cardiothoracics. Dr. Hahn made her work through her way in the cardio program, often being very harsh at Cristina, stating that whilst clearly having talent, she believed that constently praising her abilities was of little benefit to her development as a surgeon. The Chief noticed the situation after Cristina pulled off a procedure to prevent the cement boy from dying. Then, Hahn left and Cristina got her groove back in heart surgery. Later, it was revealed that Cristina was the solo surgery winner but she was revoked off the prize because of the intern problem and awarded the surgery of an amputation to Alex. She finally got the solo surgery, which was a hernia repair, but she didn't focus a lot on it, seeing as she was busy trying to set Izzie up with an oncologist.
After news of the Mercy West and Seattle Grace merger, Cristina decided to go into peds to protect herself as everyone else was safe. Meredith had Derek, Alex was Bailey's new favorite, Izzie had cancer, but she had nobody. She found it hard to work in peds, unwilling to play games, and when she was asked to get a chocolate pudding, she ate the last one. However in a surgery, she witnessed Mark and Arizona reattach an arm and she found herself impressed.
Following the completion of her residency, Cristina took a fellowship at The Mayo Clinic. She was dismayed to find that Dr. Thomas, one of her boards examiners, whom she viewed to be incompetent and out of touch with modern medicine, was also a surgeon there. After failing to integrate to the environment there, Cristina is assigned to work with Dr. Thomas until future notice. She soon found that he's actually quite a remarkable surgeon, with many things to teach her. She started to enjoy working with him. When she found out that Dr. Parker planned to force him into retirement, she defended Dr. Thomas. She did a surgery with Dr. Thomas while he was on probation. The surgery was ultimately successful, but Dr. Thomas unfortunately died while operating. Saddened by his death, Cristina drank all the tequila from her "Bug Out Bag" and flew back to Seattle, where she moved into Meredith's House, now owned by Alex. She returned to work at Seattle Grace-Mercy West Hospital and immediately worked to instill fear in the interns.
Notes and Trivia Edit
- She was the first to call Dr. Shepherd "McDreamy."
- When Cristina had her surgery for ectopic pregnancy, the OR Board said she was 28 and her blood type was AB+.
- She is dyslexic. Yet, she managed to be a straight A student through college.
- Cristina won the first solo surgery but was not allowed to perform it. It was the first solo surgery where all the attendings chose the same resident.
- She prefers to drink coffee from the cart outside the hospital more than the cafeteria coffee.
- Her cooking skills are a bit questionable.
- She has two earrings in her right ear at all times but only one on the left.
- She and Owen got married in the season seven premiere, but got divorced in the season nine winter premiere.
- She is the godmother to Sofia Robbin Sloan Torres, Zola Grey Shepherd and Bailey Grey Shepherd.
- When comparing Cristina to drink, Mark called her a cheap wine. Shepherd called her a single malt scotch and Owen later agrees to this.
- Starting with her move back to Seattle following Dr. Thomas's death, she lives with Alex Karev, even though he initially didn't want roommates.
- Cristina performed her first solo cardiothoracic surgery in Blink.