Women honored for healthcare service

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

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The New Hong Kong Restaurant was the scene of the Women of Color Empowered luncheon. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

That statement, by Martin Luther King Jr., is how emcee Wendy Zheng, American Heart Association regional director of health equity, began her introduction of 14 women and one organization at the Women of Color Empowered luncheon at the New Hong Kong Restaurant in Seattle on Feb. 7.

The honorees

Ekene “Kennie” Amaefule, nurse manager at the Puget Sound Veterans Administration Medical Center and adjunct professor at Seattle University, said that everything about healthcare is rewarding. Her mother told her that she’d be a good nurse, and “being in healthcare has been wonderful. Nothing is more rewarding than serving veterans.”

Maria Carlos, who manages the Health Outcomes, Prevention & Education program at Public Health-Seattle and King County, said her parents taught her to give back to the community. Working with the community has taught her a lot over the years, she said. It was “an honor and privilege to support them.”

Dr. Lily Jung Henson, chief of staff of the Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, attributes her success to her “wonderful parents, loving husband, and amazing friends.” Like Carlos, Henson says she has had the great privilege to look into her patients’ lives and help them.

When asked about the future of healthcare, Dr. Claire Spain-Remy of MultiCare Medical Associates said she anticipates a lot of big changes ahead, with more work to transform the way illnesses are treated.

Zeineb Mohammed is the Eritrean community health promoter for the nonprofit Global to Local. When she arrived in the United States in 2010, she became recertified as a registered nurse and began to build community support through the nonprofit.

Mohammed said she followed in the footsteps of her mother as a nurse because she knew at a young age that she wanted to help people.

Senior vice president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Julie McElrath chose a career in healthcare because she always liked the sciences and people. McElrath told a story of an AIDS patient whom she met. From that point on, she knew she wanted to help prevent HIV in the local community. She attributes her successes to her dedicated team members at Fred Hutchinson.

Chief of the neurology section at Virginia Mason Medical Center and director of the Virginia Mason Multiple Sclerosis Center, Dr. Mariko Kita, loves her job and said she has been “blown away” by the organization she works for. It has been her dream job, she said, because it has so much promise in clinical research and “being a part of that couldn’t be more exciting.”

Senior vice president of Sea-Mar Community Health Centers Carolina Lucero said she has been blessed with opportunities to innovate and make a difference in peoples’ lives. Serving the common good has been her desire through her work in healthcare.

Director of the Health Sciences Center for Minority Students at the University of Washington, Karlotta Rosebaugh started teaching elementary students and then taught college students. She joked that she didn’t realize there would be a big difference between the two. Rosebaugh received the Golden Acorn Award for teaching and was nominated twice for a University of Washington Distinguished Staff Award.

Clinical pharmacist at Harborview Medical Center, Katie Lai openly thanked her mother for encouraging Lai to become a pharmacist. Lai dedicated the award to her mother, joking that her mother told her, “You will be a pharmacist” as a statement, rather than a suggestion. Lai said it is now a great time to be a pharmacist because it’s an opportunity to be “post-pective” and help providers.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sarah Patterson is also excited for the future of healthcare.

She emphasized that mentorship is important to give future generations enriching and valuable experiences. Low cost and high quality healthcare is what the future should provide, she said. “If you don’t set a high bar, then you won’t achieve it.”

Shaquita Bell is a pediatrician and Seok Bee Lim is the staff dentist at the community health center Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. Both women have dedicated many years to the underserved and diverse communities in the area.

Bell called it a blessing to be honored at such an early point in her career and has been very thankful for her humble beginnings.

Lim is grateful to be a part of a team that focuses on care for patients with dental disease risk. Both hope to encourage younger generations in healthcare to achieve the best to help others.

The Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization was honored for its work providing financial support to students of African heritage, who are pursuing careers in professional nursing.

The institution honors the pioneering African American nurse Mary Eliza Mahoney, who was the first black graduate nurse in the United States.

All of the honorees expressed gratitude for the recognition given by the community, and said they look forward to the future of healthcare, and hope to inspire more individuals in the industry. (end)

Nina Huang can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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