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Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

UI Health recognizes Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month by highlighting the achievements and contributions of this community, paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders. They have enriched America's history and are instrumental in its future success.

In Their Own Words

Some of our employees talk about their ways of celebrating this month in their lives.

Photo of Janet Lin MD MPH MBA

Has there been a figure in your life — famous or not — that served as an inspiration to you and why?
Yes, my mom. I am my father's daughter; he is an accomplished engineer. My mom, however, is the rock in our family. She readily put aside her career as a biochemist to devote herself to raising her children and ensuring our upbringing was full of love. She is quiet, but I admire her most because she is one of the most steadfast, caring, and grounded people I know.

What excites you and provides you with hope when reflecting on AAPI history?
The fact that Asians are not a homogenous race. And recognizing the richness and diversity of all the people worldwide who make up this identity. There is no one way to categorize us accurately. AAPIs have achieved accomplishments that may be considered impressive to others and often persevered in unimaginable ways to survive and have a chance at life. A Chinese person is different from a Korean, Filipino, Japanese, or Indian, but there are also distinctions between Chinese Americans, Chinese Peruvians, and Chinese Australians. It is a celebration of diversity.

What might you recommend to others as they celebrate and reflect on AAPI Heritage Month?
Acknowledge and seek to understand the differences across Asians and take the time to learn about people's personal stories.

Why does the celebration of AAPI history, heritage, and achievements matter to you?
It is not about recognizing me or my achievements but the struggle of those before me. My paternal grandfather was an illiterate farmer from rural China. He moved to South Korea to provide his family with the remotest chance and opportunity to have a better life. My dad, not the oldest but the elder son, was the first person in his family to get an education; and because of that, he had an opportunity to cross an ocean and immigrate to the United States. It is essential for all those who may have a similar story to know that our histories are not isolated.

Photo of Angulo Melissa

What have been some challenges of serving in healthcare or your specified field as a person of AAPI heritage?
I have been fortunate to find mentors or role models here at UI Health who still share similar values while we may not share the same cultural upbringing or look alike. I am grateful for that. I hope to see more people of diversity in leadership roles in general. It triggers a different sense of pride when you see someone you connect with and share something in common with succeeding.   

What hopes or wishes do you have for UI Health as it implements further diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives?
There is a quote I like about how sometimes we judge or are judged as a fish and our ability to climb a tree instead of our ability to swim. Even though I am part of a minority group, because of the rich diversity here at UI Health, I never felt like a minority. This wasn't always my experience growing up. To feel included is powerful and finding an environment that embraces your strengths is crucial to finding success and satisfaction at work. UI Health has been an ocean for me, and I hope that it will continue to be an ocean for others. 

Why does the celebration of AAPI history, heritage, and achievements matter to you?
Being an Asian American is a part of who I am, similar to many other Asian Americans here at UI Health. So it is always exciting when a culture you identify with is celebrated and recognized. I hope that celebrating different cultures will foster awareness and curiosity at UI Health. 

Has there been a figure in your life — famous or not — that served as an inspiration to you and why?
I draw a little bit of inspiration from many different people. My husband has the strongest work ethic of anyone I know, so he inspires me to persevere and have a tough mindset. My four kids inspire me to live in the moment through their jovial personalities and always try to be the parent they deserve. 

My supervisor here at UI Health inspires me to lead from the heart through her actions. When I came to work here, many of my coworkers inspired me to relearn to speak some Tagalog, a dialect of the Philippines, and readopt some Filipino culture that I hadn't been immersed in since I was a kid. The friends and family I have here at UI Health inspire me to be someone others can count on for support; to appreciate and pass on traditions and values of my heritage; to be an advocate for the members of this community.

Photo of Gia Mac

Has there been a figure in your life — famous or not — that served as an inspiration to you and why? 
My parents are my greatest inspiration. They immigrated to the United States in their late thirties with no money and no understanding of the English language. Growing up, I watched how hard they worked to provide for the family, often holding down two jobs.

What might you recommend to others as they celebrate and reflect on AAPI Heritage Month? 
As we celebrate and reflect on AAPI Heritage Month, I would love for everyone to honor, respect, and enjoy our differences. Our differences add to the beautiful color pallet of life.

What hopes or wishes do you have for UI Health as it implements further diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives? 
I have great hopes and expectations for UI Health as it furthers its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. These initiatives will support an organizational cultural awareness, sensitivity, and humility that matches our patient population and the primary service area we serve. 

What excites you and provides you with hope when reflecting on AAPI history? 
What excites me about AAPI and its rich history is how far we had come since March 28, 1898, when the Supreme Court upheld birthright citizenship in United States vs. Wong Kim Ark.  With the Wong Kim Ark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the principle of birthright citizenship and affirmed the universality of American national identity—the idea that anyone born on U.S. soil can be American regardless of race. Today we have our first Black and South Asian woman holding the second-highest office in the United States, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris.

Photo of Bishan Nandy

Has there been a figure in your life - famous or not - that served as an inspiration to you and why?   
My father has been my biggest inspiration throughout my career and life journey. He is an eminent commercial artist and advertising person in India. The journey of his life has always fascinated me and provided me with firsthand lessons about key elements of life such as integrity, dedication, perseverance, and courage. He has always been my best guide and mentor through the ups and downs of my life.   

What hopes or wishes do you have for UI Health as it implements further diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives?   
UI Health has been very much invested in promoting diversity and inclusiveness across all aspects of its operation. I hope to see continued engagement from all employees to drive and support these initiatives. The basic awareness and training about health equity, diversity, and inclusiveness can help our staff and providers to better care for our patients and communities based on their unique needs.    

Why does the celebration of AAPI history, heritage, and achievements matter to you?   
As a person of AAPI heritage, I am very proud of all the achievements and contributions that this community has made to society. This is a great time to reflect and recognize those contributions, learn from the past and continue to make a great impact in a positive way.    

What might you recommend to others as they celebrate and reflect on AAPI Heritage Month?   
As a passionate advocate for diversity, my recommendation to everyone is to embrace and recognize cultural uniqueness and be empathetic to each other in both our professional and personal lives. I truly believe that it is critical to our collective success that we make a real effort to understand other cultures and their unique challenges and opportunities. That way, we can help build a more efficient and inclusive value system that not only complements our individual strengths but also collectively protects ourselves through adversities.