Connected Leadership: Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

This week’s message recognizes and celebrates Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month. First celebrated in 1992, AAPI Heritage Month honors the history, culture, accomplishments, and sacrifices of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. This message highlights some of these individuals today.

At Wellpath, we embrace the diversity of our team members and champion their individual success, as well as their contributions to our success as an organization. We hope you learn something new today!

  • Margaret Chung – The first confirmed Chinese American woman to graduate from medical school, Dr. Chung established one of the first Western medical clinics in Chinatown in the 1920s. She also volunteered as a front-line surgeon during WWII.
  • Takamine Jokichi – A Japanese chemist who emigrated to New York City, Takamine was the first to isolate and purify adrenaline from animal glands. His accomplishments and patented process led to the first bronchodilator for asthma patients.
  • Har Gobind Khorana – This Indian American biochemist won a Nobel Prize for research on genetics and protein synthesis. Dr. Khorana’s research was a foundational piece in the development of genome editing.
  • Haing Ngor – A Cambodian obstetrician, Dr. Ngor escaped the Khmer Rouge in 1979, working in refugee camps in Los Angeles before playing Dith Pran in the 1984 film The Killing Fields. He was the first Asian American actor to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He used his platform to advocate for justice as well as finance two medical clinics and a school in Cambodia.
  • Flossie Wong-Staal – A Chinese virologist who emigrated to Los Angeles, Dr. Wong was a leader in molecular biology and paved the way for HIV research. She was the first researcher to clone the HIV retrovirus, which was instrumental in understanding its genetic functionality and its role in causing AIDS. At the time of her death in 2020, she was the most widely cited female scientist.
  • Katherine Luzuriaga – This Filipino American pediatric immunologist developed one of the early diagnostic tests for HIV infection in children, as well as researched antiretroviral therapies labeled for use in children. Dr. Luzuriaga and her team were credited with being behind the first well-documented case of an HIV-infected child being functionally cured of HIV.
  • David D. Ho – A Taiwanese-American HIV/AIDS researcher, physician, and virologist, Dr. Ho’s research led to the development of combination antiretroviral therapy, which greatly increased the life expectancy of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He also led a research team to develop drugs and antibodies to combat COVID-19.
  • Sammy Lee – The first Asian American male Olympic gold medalist and the first man to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic platform diving. Born to Korean immigrants in Fresno, Lee competed in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. Following Lee’s impressive diving career, he practiced as an ear, nose, and throat doctor for 35 years.

This list is by no means all-inclusive; we’ve only looked at some of those individuals who have contributed to the medical community. However, the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made incredible contributions to engineering, technology, civil rights, music, art, and so much more. We’re grateful for their inventions, research, and discoveries that have led to improved medical care for all, including the patients we serve.

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Connected Leadership is Wellpath’s ongoing leadership education series published by Ann Hatcher, Wellpath’s Chief Human Resources Officer

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