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Recognizing culture and diversity during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Father, mother and three children holding thank you signs for healthcare workers.

Each May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month commemorates the vital contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians to the American story and recognizes the challenges many have faced along the way.

Over the past year, our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) colleagues, who make up approximately 8% of the workforce at HCA Healthcare, have been impacted by the sharp increase in hate crimes and violence against their communities. Even as the AAPI community experienced mistreatment and racism associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, those who are part of our HCA Healthcare family have continued to make incredible contributions to our organization and communities, including serving at the forefront of efforts to curb the spread and impact of the virus.

To celebrate this month, we are sharing the voices of our AAPI colleagues for greater understanding of the rich diversity they represent and the unique histories, values, languages, and experiences they weave into the culture of HCA Healthcare.

Man wearing suit and tie. Headshot of Bland Eng.

Bland Eng, Chief Executive Officer, Brandon Regional Hospital (Brandon, Florida)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage: Chinese

What does your Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage mean to you? 
I am very proud of my Chinese heritage. My paternal grandfather stowed away on a boat to come to the United States. As a stowaway, he almost starved to death on his journey to America but a cook onboard befriended him and provided him with enough nourishment until he arrived in America. In turn, my paternal grandfather opened a series of very successful Chinese restaurants and all four of his children earned college degrees. China is one of the world’s four ancient civilizations and rich with cultural history. When Marco Polo explored China, he was impressed with paper money, eyeglasses, a complex postal system, coal burning and gunpowder.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture?
Most Chinese are taught to be reserved or calm when excited or disappointed. So if I’m not jumping up and down over good news or in tears over bad news, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care!

How can we bring Asian American / Pacific Islander culture to life at HCA Healthcare?

It would be great if we could recognize Chinese New Years along with the upcoming Chinese zodiac when the day arrives each year. Chinese New Years is Lunar and occurs on a different day each year.

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them?
Unfortunately, over the past year, I’ve seen a racial divide in our country. Specific to Asians, I’ve seen and experienced ill perceptions towards Asians that I haven’t seen since I was a young boy. Whether the origins of the pandemic were accidental or intentional in Wuhan, all human beings should be treated with the Golden Rule, treat others how you want to be treated.


Woman wearing purple blazer. Headshot of Camille Mallari.

Camille Mallari, AVP Revenue Cycle Operations, Parallon (Nashville, Tennessee)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage: Filipino

What does your Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage mean to you? 
I was born in Manila, Philippines, so my Pacific Islander heritage is an integral part of who I am today and has been the largest influence in how I was raised, but also especially in my career. In the Filipino culture and coming from an immigrant family, working hard and resiliency is at the heart of our culture and how we show our commitment and dedication.

What are your favorite cultural traditions?  
Family and food are two very important parts of the Filipino culture. As simple as that sounds, family is so deeply engrained in our culture that having Sunday night dinners (even virtually in a pandemic) has become something that makes me miss being close to family! Food is a Filipino-love language, cooking for others is our way of showing we care and welcome you to our family or home.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture? 
I do wish people learned more about the history of the Philippines, how closely intertwined the Philippines was and still is with the US, and how this relationship has evolved over time. Its been a more recent conversation why the model minority myth exists and this is especially true of Filipinos because of the long-standing history with America. The American Dream of living in a land full of opportunity is one thing Filipinos have watched from afar, so coming from a developing country, we also understand that we are very fortunate to have these opportunities in America today that we can continue on for our families. 

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them? 
A common challenge Asian American /Pacific Islanders encounter today is the overgeneralization of the term Asians or being mistaken commonly just as Chinese or Japanese. There are so many other beautiful countries in Asia, and more education to understand, celebrate and learn about our differences would be a first step in helping increase cultural awareness and helping more Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders feel more accepted.


Man wearing white lab coat and tie. Headshot of Arnold Chung.

Arnold Chung, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Market Medical Director, Lung Nodule Program and Medical Director of Thoracic Surgery at MountainView Hospital & Southern Hills Hospital (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage:  Korean

What does your Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage mean to you? 
Asian culture represents a variety of ancient civilizations that have survived throughout millennia by developing and practicing commonsense approaches to individual, family and societal challenges.

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage? 
Korean culture and church are often very connected. Attending church services and keeping in touch with friends creates strong pillars of cultural identity.

What is something you wish people knew more about your culture?
Western people ought to consider the importance of familial loyalty and its potential beneficial impact on society as a whole. This concept is very similar to the Judeo-Christian commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.”

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them?
We generally strive to conform with our society. “The nail that sticks out often gets hammered” is a very common saying in our culture. This can make us somewhat invisible as individuals. I would encourage our non-Asian friends to look closer at your Asian colleagues and see the subtle but real differences that inform our choices and lifestyles.


Woman standing in front of a Christmas tree. Headshot of Chandra Xiong.

Chandra Xiong, Consulting Clinical Analyst, CereCore (Austin, Texas)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage: Hmong

What does your Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage mean to you? 
My Hmong heritage is important to me, since we’re a small group of ethnic minorities in the world.

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage?  
I am very close to my Hmong family, who reside in Minnesota.  We strive to celebrate cultural events together with a lot of food.  I have recently learned to cook more traditional dishes, like the noodle dish kapong, boiled pork and greens, purple sticky rice, and pepper sauce.

How can we bring Asian American / Pacific Islander culture to life at HCA Healthcare? 
I cherish the concept of family importance in the Hmong culture; not just immediate family but extended relatives and ancestors.  We value all members of the family clan, and always strive to help out one another – one person’s success is the whole family’s success. I see a similar concept at HCA Healthcare.

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them? 
I think during this chaotic period of anti-Asian sentiment during the pandemic, it’s important to recognize the quality contributions of AAPIs in healthcare, as healthcare heroes on the frontline.


Woman wearing purple top. Headshot of Bhagawathy Sarma.

Bhagawathy Sarma, Senior Coordinator, Clinical Research, Medical City Fort Worth (Fort Worth, Texas)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage: Indian (Born in Sri Lanka)

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage?
Celebrate the festivals for my son who is growing here in the US, volunteering in a local Tamil language school to continue to learn and impart the knowledge to the future generation, watching movies with my family, visiting the local temple and participating in the celebrations as time permits.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture? 
People from our culture are fluent in many other fields other than science and technology. There are 23 officially recognized languages in India, an average Indian speaks at least three languages and Hindi is not spoken in many parts of the country. India has more diversity in food than the curry.

How can we bring Asian American / Pacific Islander culture to life at HCA Healthcare?
Bringing in more leaders from these cultures and encouraging colleagues from these cultures to come to the forefront and provide mentoring for leadership roles. We often don’t display our talents openly so its hard to notice them.

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them?
We have lesser representation in the community for reasons of being seen as different due to color/ culture or etiquettes. A better understanding of the cultural etiquettes and heritage will help override some of the misconceptions related to Asian American/Pacific Islanders and build a better relationship with ample opportunities for all. We are taught to be modest and not to be assertive so we wouldn’t normally be audacious in pushing ourselves forward for an opportunity.


Father, mother and three children holding thank you signs for healthcare workers. Photo of Ling Guan and Seth Yu.

Ling Guan, Senior Counsel of Operations, and Seth Yu, Senior Counsel of Managed Care, HCA Healthcare (Nashville, Tennessee)

(Note: Seth and Ling are husband and wife.)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage: Chinese  

What are your favorite cultural traditions? 
Special customaries for special occasions. Noodles for birthdays meaning a long life. Zongzi for Dragon Boat Festival to memorize Qu Yuan (poet, 340 B.C). Chinese Dumpling for Spring Festival, fish for New Years Eve, wormwood sticky rice for Tomb Sweeping Day, and red envelopes for the children for Lunar New Year. All these help to provide special connection within the family and community. Workwise, “put your head down and work hard” and an “action speaks louder than words” spirit is highly valued in our culture.

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage? 
It’s relatively easy for us to stay connected because we are bilingual and still have families in China. However, for our children to stay connected with their culture heritage is more challenging. The best we can do is to cook good Chinese food for them that they will never find from other places, and make them do math and play piano.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture?
China as a civilization, China as a state, and Chinese culture/heritage are three separate and distinct concepts. China as a civilization has over 5,000 years of written history, 1,600 of which are influenced by Christianity. China as a state has about 2,000 years of history, while the current Chinese government has only had control for the recent 70 years (which does not democratically represent how Chinese people think or act). Chinese culture, on the other hand, is built upon thousands of years of traditions and reinventions. It has influenced far beyond China and reaches almost a third of the world’s population. Also, we are not very good at giving eye contact because it is to be avoided in our culture.

How can we bring Asian American / Pacific Islander culture to life at HCA Healthcare?
HCA Healthcare has always been about family value and integrity from day one, which is a perfect match to our culture and value. Our hope is that HCA Healthcare will continue to grow while remaining true to its values.

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian American & Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them?
One of the challenges for AAPI Americans is the perpetual foreignness. Their results, achievements and contributions are often unconsciously discounted through the lens of “otherness.” We are grateful to have leaders in HCA Healthcare and its Legal Department who have rich life experiences that uniquely prepared them to appreciate people of all backgrounds and to create a positive and supportive work environment for everyone. The hope is that people will broaden perspectives, become more curious and open-minded to each other’s cultures and backgrounds as our shared community continues its journey of diversity and inclusion.


Woman wearing graduation cap. Photo of Gelliza Rosales.

Gelliza Rosales, Biostatistician, Sarah Cannon (San Diego, California)

Asian American / Pacific Islander heritage: Filipino American

What are your favorite cultural traditions?
Hanging up “parols” for Christmas, which are star-shaped lanterns

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage? 
I continue to cook and eat Filipino foods very regularly, which is easy to do with a good selection of Filipino/Asian grocery stores and restaurants in San Diego. My high school offered a class on Filipino language and culture, so I was able to learn a lot there. Sadly, I’m still terrible at the language because my parents speak a regional dialect called Ilocano, rather than the national language Tagalog. Because I grew up around many Filipinos (not just relatives), I love to share inside jokes with them that nobody else would otherwise understand or appreciate.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture? 
A lot of major components of Filipino culture were heavily influenced by other cultures, and part of that is because the Philippines was colonized by Spain and later the US. I’ve met people who asked me about Filipino culture and I’ve been able to better explain it by comparing it to other cultures. For example, when I explain to others  that I had a huge, traditional birthday party called a Debut (pronounced deh-boo), I describe it as very similar to a Quinceaera but at 18 years old instead of 15.

In addition, it is customary to call your older brother Kuya and your older sister Ate (pronounced “Ah-teh”), so my younger brother has always referred to me as Ate. For the longest time, he didn’t know what my real name was, and he also had to ask me how to spell my name as an adult. I’ve sometimes wondered if other people thought that Ate was my real name or just a nickname. On the other hand, I grew up finding it very odd when others referred to their older sibling by name.

What challenges do you feel exist for Asian American / Pacific Islanders today and how can we help overcome them? 
Complex relationships at home/with our families. There’s generational trauma being passed down and a lot of pressure: to be successful because our families uprooted their lives to give us a better one, to embrace American culture without disrespecting our foreign culture, to keep up outward appearances, etc. In the workplace, were often asked “how are you?” just as small talk, and I don’t think I’m the only one who says “I’m good” simply out of reflex, or because we don’t want to be unprofessional or open up a can of worms. I think we could search for a balance such as normalizing being “not ok,” so that others feel free to speak up and/or are encouraged to focus on mental health. At the very least, don’t make assumptions just because someone says they’re fine or if they don’t say anything at all!

In addition, discrimination within and across Asian communities. No matter what our culture or heritage is, we could all take a step back and assess our biases.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 186 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our approximately 275,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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