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Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! 

To honor AAPI Month, we'll be sharing history and stories to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans!

Dr. Amy Kim, AEGD Associate Director (CO, MT, NV, NM, UT, WA regions), is our first feature for AAPI month!

  • What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you? 
    • I really appreciate AAPI Heritage Month as an opportunity to highlight the unique and wonderful things about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. There are so many negative influences in the world right now, including anti Asian hate, and it is great to share the positives too. Those of us who are American, with Asian or Pacific Islander roots, greatly contribute to the diversity table with our rich cultures and outlooks, and various religions and philosophies. And don't forget about the amazing array of foods! I cannot speak for other Asian Americans, but we of Korean descent LOVE to eat! In fact, we literally use "Have you eaten rice?" as a greeting.
  • How do you identify within the AAPI community? 
    • The idea of the Asian American is an interesting one. Asia and Pacific Islands cover large swaths of geographical and cultural diversity, and we create a very wide diaspora, from disparate backgrounds. I believe this makes us a super diverse group that goes far beyond this simple label. I consider my identity to be 50% North Korean, 50% South Korean, and 100% American. It saddens me that some may say I do not "look" American, and I look forward to an enlightened future where this will no longer be.
  • How has your heritage shaped you today, including how your background influenced your education and/or career choices?
    • As an Asian American that "fits" the stereotype of having been a strong student and landed in health care, it is very important to me that we move beyond the model minority myth. I can be proud of my academic and professional achievements, yet refuse to be lumped in a group that the majority perceives to be over-achievers simply for the sake of achieving. I happen to be a self-motivated individual with a strong commitment to excellence, and refuse to let this ridiculous racist myth take away from my accomplishments. Many Asian Americans do end up in health care, and I hope it is for the right reasons of wanting to serve others and having fulfillment in a fruitful career, not one influenced by familial pressure or the desire to live up to model minority standards.
  • Are there any family traditions that are especially important to you? 
    • Korean culture celebrates not just the date of birth of loved ones, but the date of death as well. It sounds a little morbid, but it is actually a consistent and thoughtful way to remember beloved family and friends that are no longer with us. Once beyond the immediate grieving period, it can be a beautiful remembrance of everything we loved about that person, especially impactful when shared with the next generation.
  • What does showing up to support the AAPI community, both internally and externally, look like for you? 
    • To me, supporting the AAPI community would entail being a stand-upper, similar to support of other minority or marginalized communities. Whether it is our children who hear racist taunts on the playground, or adults experiencing micro-aggressions in a professional setting, it is vital and incredibly empowering to have majority members, or any other bystanders, stand up and say "Hey, that is not okay!" Please note that this is not due to weakness; I can stand up for myself just fine. However, there is strength in numbers and a reassurance in feeling the support of others.

Dr. Joellen Coates is one of our AEGD residents at La Familia Medical Center in New Mexico. Here are her thoughts on AAPI Month:

  • What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
    • AAPI Heritage month to me means celebrating and sharing the experiences and identities of the AAPI community. I think AAPI heritage month is a great way to increase visibility and representation for the wealth of diversity in culture, traditions, and customs within the AAPI community. Growing up in Hawai'i, not only did I learn the history of the state, the culture, and traditions of the Native Hawaiians, but also I experienced firsthand the diversity of AAPI communities and seeing how the many cultures were embraced and co-existed with each other. This instilled in me an appreciation of diversity, as well as the importance of accurate representation, and preservation of cultures and the different customs and traditions of each culture.
  • How do you identify within the AAPI community?
    • I identify as Chinese American. I think growing up in Hawai'i, where there are many AAPI communities, including Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and Native Hawaiian, has shaped not only my identity, but also my perspectives and understanding of the world. I'm fortunate to have had a unique upbringing in a diverse and accepting place.
  • What does showing up to support the AAPI community, both internally and externally, look like for you?
    • Supporting the AAPI community internally for me looks like leaning into my curiosity and educating myself more on the history, culture, and traditions in the AAPI community. I think the more I can learn and understand, the better I can be an advocate and support the AAPI community. Externally, supporting the AAPI community means breaking out of the "model minority" myth, as well as other stereotypes that have been perpetuated, to show others that I am more than just my identity as a Chinese American. Being Chinese American is only one aspect of my identity, as not only am I a female dentist, but someone who likes being active and outside, being crafty, giving back to the local community through service, and improving my cooking skills. I think it's important to remind others that we are so much more than our outward appearances and identity and to continue to push the boundaries of what others may expect of us based on stereotypes. I think it's also important to support local businesses owned by members of the AAPI community, as well as in media that is more representative of the diverse experiences and that showcases the talent of the AAPI community.

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