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The Importance of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

Cultural heritage months give us the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our staff, faculty, trainees, students and patients at UW Medicine. With the recent surge in violence and hate crimes directed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, our observance of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is especially important this year.

During this month, we will increase awareness of the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (including but not limited to people from Hawaii, Guam and Samoa) to our country and to UW Medicine. This will include employee profiles on The Huddle and our social media channels that highlight their careers, cultural heritage, and the support they need to combat racism at work.

On upper campus, there is a panel discussion today from noon to 1:30 p.m. on “Anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander Racism: Past, Present, and a Brighter Future” hosted by the UW Faculty Council on Multicultural Affairs. You can join the Zoom event live at https://washington.zoom.us/J/93376772547 or watch a recording when it is posted after the event.

While COVID-19 has been an accelerant for racism in the past year, there are broader issues that we must address to achieve our goals for racial justice at UW Medicine. Even before the pandemic, our Asian American and Pacific Islander staff, faculty, trainees and students have been the target of bigotry and racial slurs by patients. During a recent caucus, they described a demoralizing lack of support from some managers in these situations. In addition, while nearly 20% of our medical students and faculty come from these communities, they continue to face career barriers that keep them from advancing to top leadership positions at medical schools across the country.

Another issue is that our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues talk about being “invisible” because they have been left out of conversations about discrimination and racism. One reason for this omission is the “model minority” myth, which incorrectly assumes that they are fully assimilated into the dominant white culture. In addition to diminishing their cultural heritage, this myth leaves them feeling silenced, ignored, overlooked and taken for granted.

To address these issues, our goal is to make this heritage month a springboard for continuing dialogue and organizational change. We also want to remind you of the actions that each of us can take to prevent and respond to racism in any form:

  • Don’t be silent. Express your support for people who are threatened by racism and listen to their concerns.
  • Participate in anti-racism training to learn about systemic racism in medicine and to help reduce healthcare inequity.
  • Be an advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion at work and in the community.
  • Use the UW Medicine Bias Reporting Tool to report workplace concerns, ranging from a one-time microaggression to more severe and sustained behaviors such as bullying.

We look forward to making Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month an annual observance at UW Medicine. Thank you for joining us in this celebration and in our ongoing work to become a national model for healthcare equity for every member of our community.

Sincerely,

Paul G. Ramsey, MD
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington

Paula L. Houston, EdD
Chief Equity Officer
Office of Healthcare Equity, UW Medicine
Associate Vice President for Medical Affairs
University of Washington

AAPI Solidarity with flowers

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