When I informed my colleagues and friends about my decision to relocate to Houston, many asked me why I was willing to take such a chance. Instead of offering convenient excuses such as the warmer weather and the desire to move to a city that is more affordable than NYC, I talked about the unique opportunity at EHF. It’s a way to continue my lifelong interest in helping communities: by addressing the social determinants of health, using data and research to advance community health, and by strengthening community voices.
The idea that EHF’s philosophy is about “addressing health and not health care” resonated so strongly with me. As a first generation immigrant, my family and I have personally benefitted from many culturally and linguistically appropriate services while growing up in NYC. I still remember how much my parents appreciated having a bilingual community health worker to help navigate the complex health and social services system. I felt right at home when I worked at a large community health center located in the growing Asian American community in NYC. Being in a leadership role at the community health center further strengthened my conviction about the “non-medical role” of a community health center in addressing a range of social issues that impact health, such as immigration, housing, and employment. As someone who has worked extensively in patient engagement, community partnership and policy advocacy, I look forward to contributing my experience and perspective to the four pillars of EHF’s work – research, convening, congregational engagement and grant-making.
As a trained social scientist, I have been fortunate to work on groundbreaking research studies assessing the economic impact of the September 11th tragedy on Chinatown, identifying mental health needs of the victims’ families, and analyzing health insurance coverage implementation in the Asian-American community. As a data specialist, I was also involved in co-developing a Census Information Center to produce population briefs about the Asian-American population. While I appreciate the importance of using large data sets to tell the story, it is equally important to include community voices and narratives as part of telling any research story. I have been a big believer in a community-based participatory research approach – especially in respecting and including community voices in the development of research projects. I also come with some background in studying nonprofit organizational capacity building, community health partnerships and policy advocacy evaluation. I will continue to advocate for these mixed-methods approaches when addressing health policy problems or community-based issues at EHF.
Throughout my personal and professional lives, I have been fortunate to be part of various community-wide participation efforts to inform, educate and empower communities on issues such as affordable housing, citizenship, economic development, immigrant rights, health access, redistricting, transportation, and voting rights. I have witnessed first-hand how individuals, organizations and communities have organized themselves in understanding the causes, developing recommendations, and informing public policies. The ideas of “engaging community” and “giving voice” are values that are important to me. As someone who has an insider perspective, I look forward to contributing to EHF’s work in community and congregational engagement, especially in advancing community health.
Most importantly, like many new start-up organizations, EHF has the ability to be nimble and creative in developing its core strategies and activities. EHF is also very unique in its identity. We take a lot of pride in non-grant related work – such as research, convening and congregational engagement. I am excited to join a team of talented colleagues who are committed to improving community health for all.