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In celebrating Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (ANHPI) Heritage Month, we recognize that the communities we celebrate are highly diverse, containing dozens of ethnicities and exponentially more unique languages and dialects. We asked some of our ANHPI colleagues what their heritage and cultures mean to them and what UW Medicine can do to support and celebrate individuals and the community.

Ashley Allman (She / Her), RN, BSN, CCRN / Surgical ICU, UW Medical Center – Montlake

Ashley Allman, RN, BSN, CCRN

Throughout my life I’ve had great mentors to inspire my career path. I’ve always been drawn to the concept of healing and I knew I wanted to be a nurse from a young age. I’m grateful to now engage with people from all walks of life and serve my community. I also love the sense of camaraderie on our small but fast-paced unit as we care for critically ill patients.

I am Native Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, born and raised in Maui, Hawai’i. My upbringing was immersed in Hawaiian values and traditions. What keeps me grounded and feeling connected to my roots is appreciating the deep sense of ‘ohana (family), aloha (love) and kūleana (responsibility and privilege) between people, the land and each other. The idea of mālama ‘āina/aloha ‘āina exists in Hawai’i, and it means that by taking care of and respecting the land, it will in turn take care of you.

Like many Indigenous cultures, Hawaiian culture is rooted in oral tradition. The language itself was not even written down until the 1820s when missionaries arrived on the islands. So, there’s an opportunity to educate and share wisdom about the rich history of Hawaii and what it means to be Hawaiian. It’s important for UW Medicine to hold space for communities to gather, share stories, and practice cultural traditions and ceremonies (like hula, mele and mo’olelo) to help build connections and share experiences with others. Mahalo Nui!

Sheila Lukito (She / Her), PharmD, CPPS, Medication Safety Officer, Valley Medical Center

Sheila Lukito, PharmD, CPPS

My ethnicity is Chinese Indonesian, which is an ethnic minority in Indonesia. My parents decided to come to the U.S. when I was in elementary school to make sure my sister and I had equal opportunities to succeed. I remember the first time I set foot in the UW campus as a little girl; I was in awe of its beauty and the diversity of the students walking around campus. Later, as a UW student, I learned to be proud of who you are no matter where you come from, to speak up with empathy, to never give up, and to pass down the knowledge to the next generation.

Growing up with a family medicine physician mom and an architect dad, I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare. A high school career aptitude test noted pharmacy would be a good match. I went to UW to obtain both a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. The year before I entered the Doctor of Pharmacy program, I worked as a research assistant in a biotech company where pharmacists were hired as medication safety officers. I knew by the time I went to pharmacy school that my passion was in medication safety. I’m grateful to have been able to practice as the medication safety officer all these years at Valley Medical Center, where my voice is heard and I’m able to make a difference each day by collaborating with healthcare professionals to achieve optimal patient outcomes. I’m also grateful to be given the opportunity to give back to the next generation of pharmacists by being a lecturer at UW School of Pharmacy for medication safety.

Seo-Eun Choi (She / Her), PhD, MS, Research Scientist, Center for Psychometric Analyses in Aging and Neurodegeneration, UW School of Medicine

Seo-Eun Choi, PhD, MS

It’s hard to explain what being Korean means to me in English because there aren’t always the right words to describe what I want to say. There’s 열정 (yeol-jeong), which could be translated as ardor or passion—it’s a feeling of determination and tenacity, the drive behind achieving the improbable and the constant pull upwards to the next breakthrough. There’s 흥 (heung), which means joy, passion or energy — but it’s also listening to upbeat music on a sunny road trip or excitedly talking about a favorite TV show with your friends. Then there’s 해학 (hae-hak), which goes deeper than entertainment or sarcasm to find not just the good in a bad situation, but also elegance in humor that can become a defense and comfort for victims.

Even in my work as a researcher in Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, I find myself thinking in Korean more often than in English. When a new dataset arrives, I tackle analyses with yeol-jeong and work tirelessly towards producing the most effective visualizations and presentations to communicate my findings. If the team comes to an impasse or there’s difficulty coming up with a solution to one of our questions, hae-hak is the levity that refreshes our approach. And when our papers are accepted for publication, I’m filled with heung when I celebrate with my team and start planning the next. I’m proud of the work I do, and I’m proud of my heritage and who I am. And if there’s not English to express what I feel, now you know (some of) the Korean.

Roni Wadhwani (She / Her), ARNP, Diabetes and Endocrinology, Harborview Medical Center

Roni Wadhwani, ARNP

In my family, our Indian culture is expressed most wholeheartedly in the sharing of food and the hospitality that comes with that. Chai and pakoras when neighbors come to visit, Sindhi kadhi on pooja days, tandoori chicken at barbeques and birthday parties, banquet tables covered in mithai for Diwali. My culinary heritage and establishing new food traditions with my wife and son are an important part of being Asian American for me. For example, we hold an annual “Curry and Cookies” party on Christmas Eve and enjoy sharing Indian sweets with friends and neighbors around Diwali.

I entered the field of endocrinology, after several years in primary care, with a focus on diabetes and gender-affirming care. Diabetes is prevalent in my family of origin and disproportionally impacts ANHPI communities. The highlight of my work is getting to discuss lifestyle choices through the lens of mutual love of food and appreciation for cultural food traditions. For those patients with food insecurity, our clinic is also a place where they can come for tea and nutritious snacks. I am grateful that the phase of the pandemic that limited the sharing of food has ended, and that we may gather again in this way with all of our different communities.

Chris Mirabueno (He / Him), Program Operations Manager, Supply Chain – Medical Stores, UW Medical Center – Montlake

Chris Mirabueno with his mother

I worked as a warehouse clerk during college and developed a knack for inventory, distribution, transportation and logistics. In time, I made the most of any professional development and promotion opportunities, which has led me to my role at UW Medical Center today.

My family is Filipino and Filipinos define “family” on a very broad scale, not limited to blood relatives. Besides our own extended families, we grow up regarding our parents’ friends as aunts and uncles, their children as cousins. There seems to be running joke between Filipinos: When we meet for the first time, very often someone says something like, “We’re probably cousins one way or another.” Foundationally, it helps perpetuate the deep sense of community felt in that there is a sense of obligation to look out for each other, make sure everyone is safe and well.

While American society has moved toward a more youth culture-centric mindset, there is still a certain reverence held for elders in the Filipino community out of respect for their wisdom and life experiences. Where it’s accepted that most Americans may refer to their elders from other families by their given name, Filipinos still attach titles such as “Lola” (Grandma) or “Tito” (Uncle) or even “Kuya/Manang” (Older Brother/Sister) before their name when addressing them as a form of respect. Also, many Filipino homes are multi-generational, as it is an ingrained belief that since our elders took care of us when we were young, in return we care for them in their golden years.

Jin Xu (She / Her), Finance Supervisor, Radiation Oncology, UW School of Medicine

Jin Xu

I used to work for the United Nations Beijing Office as a program and finance assistant, which was a rewarding and inspiring experience. I had a summer internship at United Nations Development Program in New York, which instilled my ultimate career goal in the public sector. I worked for the Public Health Department in Oregon and then joined the UW School of Medicine. My current position in the Radiation Oncology Department provides me with ample opportunities in various aspects of financial management.

I’d like to see the UW School of Medicine utilize our medical facilities and resources to create summer programs for ANHPI high schoolers, especially girls, to pursue leadership in future careers in medicine. We can invite our leaders, including female leaders, to share their experience and provide guidance.

As a Chinese American, a big part of what I was taught growing up was the importance of caring for your family and serving the community. That’s why I enjoy volunteering at my kids’ schools and in my neighborhood, and why I think outreach is important.

Manami Honda (She / Her), DNP, ARNP, Post-Acute Care Services, Harborview Medical Center

Manami Honda, DNP, ARNP

I’ve always had a strong passion for serving the community, particularly in the realm of health and wellness. Pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner was a natural path for me. This role not only enables me to provide care for those currently facing illness but also allows me to educate individuals on preventive medicine, a crucial aspect in enhancing overall community health.

UW Medicine can foster the success and leadership of ANHPI individuals through various initiatives, such as actively seeking ANHPI candidates for leadership positions, providing personalized mentorship and professional development programs, and nurturing a workplace environment that embraces diversity in all its forms.

My upbringing in the countryside of Japan holds immense significance to me. Growing up in rural Japan influenced my values of community, reverence for nature and heritage, and a strong work ethic. These values, deeply embedded in Japanese culture, continue to shape my approach not only to healthcare but also to life in general.


Grace Kwak (She / Her), Program Coordinator, Radiology, UW School of Medicine

Grace Kwak

I was originally interested in the clinical medical field as my family encouraged me to pursue medical careers since I was a young girl. However, after studying at UW both as an undergraduate and graduate student, I came to the realization of wanting to be more involved in the administrative side of healthcare.

One thing that I have experienced through my Korean heritage is the family-oriented values that have provided a foundation of who I am today. My family, especially living in a foreign land, have emphasized values such as protecting the family, establishing close family ties, and working hard. One example of this would be the Korea Thanksgiving Day also known as Chuseok. The entire family would gather, work hard in preparation for a feast, and celebrate hard. My favorite memory was when I would sneak a songpyeon (a type of rice cake) without my mother noticing while doing chores assigned to me to prepare for the holiday.

There are various ways to create opportunities for Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders; more mentorship programs for various career pathways (administrative, clinical, research) particularly geared for first-generation communities would promote diversity and equity. There are people who come from unique and skilled backgrounds, only for it to be rendered useless often when coming to United States. Mentorship programs or transition programs would provide opportunities.

James Li (He / Him), ARNP, UW Medicine Primary Care at Federal Way

James Li, ARNP

I was a former social worker and wanted to be more involved with people’s care. Training to be a nurse practitioner allows me to be able to do more for people.

I’m from Taiwan and grew up in Texas. My Taiwanese culture is an important part of my identity and I strive to represent its inviting and friendly nature. We love sharing food to get to know each other and I think it’s a great way to get to know Taiwan. Taiwan has been such a forefront in innovation, and you might have even experienced some yourself like boba tea, Din Tai Fung, pineapple cakes or cat cafes! UW Medicine can help create more opportunities for ANHPI people to succeed and lead and recognize that there are many influences out there that shape our lifestyles.


Editor’s note: Responses were lightly edited for length, clarity and style. Any information or opinions shared in this article are personal views, and do not represent those of the University of Washington or UW Medicine in any way, shape, or form.