2021 #AANHPIhealth Heroes

AAPCHO #AANHPIhealth Heroes
6 min readApr 22, 2021


To commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we are highlighting #AANHPIhealth Heroes — individuals who are committed to improving the health of Asian Americans (AAs), Native Hawaiians (NHs), and Pacific Islanders (PIs). These heroes have made great strides to ensure that AA and NHPI communities have better access to affordable, high quality, and culturally and linguistically proficient health care that they need and deserve.

Meet this year’s #AANHPIhealth Heroes! Last year’s heroes can be found here.

Pearl Marumoto

“It is important to find new synergies in health, environmental protection, and political agenda to translate what our data is telling us “how sick” we are into new actions. It is important to find new “Political Will” to forge policies into actions that will advocate and promote wellness and health protection as primary care processes and infrastructures in our healthcare system to effect change in our current health status.”

Pearl Marumoto is the Executive Director of Belau Medical Wellness Center the public health programming arm of Belau Medical Clinic. Pearl is an advocate for health equity and chronic diseases. Learn more about Pearl’s work and why she’s an #AANHPIhealth Hero at Belau Mecial Clinic’s Facebook.

Ninez Ponce, PhD, MPP

“Health equity is at the core of what I do. It’s what drives me, what keeps me up at night, and what gives my work and my life meaning. Data disaggregation is key to revealing health inequities and disparities, and it is vital that public health data researchers change how we collect and report race and ethnicity information in public health data. To understand vast differences between the Asian and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander experiences, we cannot keep lumping them together. If we don’t make this change, we’ll never achieve health equity.”

Ninez A. Ponce, PhD, MPP, is the director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, home of the California Health Interview Survey, the nation’s largest state health survey, and the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Data Policy Lab. She is also a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Learn more about Ninez’s work and why she’s an #AANHPIhealth Hero at health policy.ucla.edu.

Kimberly Chang, MD, MPH

Since I work at Asian Health Services, and do work around violence and exploitation, I’ll share this interesting family story. We just found some translated letters from one of my great-grandmothers to my grandmother. In the mid-late 1800s, my great-grandmother was kidnapped from a small village in Annam (Vietnam) and sold into child slavery in Hong Kong, for both domestic service and sex. She managed to escape one day, because a cook in the brothel felt compassion for her and gave her advice on how to run outside when certain friendly police officers were on duty and to show them her wounds from the brothel operators — she followed his advice and managed to escape, placed into a Basel Mission. It was this unnamed cook who altered the trajectory of this great-grandmother, paving the way for her freedom, ability to form a family, immigrate to the Big Island of Hawaii and set the stage for my grandmother, my father and now me. We can’t and won’t ever know the full effects of the deeds we do day in and out — but down the line, they can make a big difference and impact lives and generations. This is why the work I do is important.

I’ve been blessed to be born into an amazing family in Hawaii, which had lots of grounding in values of kindness, compassion, generosity, an openness to others, and community. As a result of those foundations, I have been further blessed with the ability to pursue education, have good health, freedom from want, feelings of stability and security. Lots of people don’t have that, and it impacts their health — physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. I have power and privilege — and that comes with a deep seeded responsibility to create ways that others can also attain security, stability, and health. As a physician, I work on an individual basis to help people achieve these goals, and in line with the ethics of the community health center movement and as a public health professional, advocate, and activist, I work to change systems and structures that create conditions that either block people/communities from realizing their full potential, or that create conditions in which people are more vulnerable to harm and ill health. It’s pretty simple — be kind, and if you see a problem that you can help with — then help!

Kimberly Chang, MD is a physician at Asian Health Services. Learn more about her work and why she’s an #AANHPIhealth Hero at asianhealthservices.org.

Fayette Truax Nguyen, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC

The research and projects I have done to help improve medication adherence among Vietnamese immigrants with latent tuberculosis infection has been incredibly rewarding. By collaborating with public health departments and community providers to improve medication completion, more Vietnamese immigrants living in the U.S. can live a longer and healthier life free of TB infection.

Fayette Truax Nguyen, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC is an Assistant Professor at the Loma Linda University School of Nursing. Learn more about her work and why she’s an #AANHPIhealth Hero at http://www.llu.edu/.

Joseph Seia

“The work birthed out of the Pacific Islander Community Association is born from the cultural brilliance of Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander communities that have made Washington state their home for the past 200 years and are looking to build cultural home, center community power and advance wellness for our Pasifika communities.

While there are many disparities facing our Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. Diaspora, we at PICA-WA believe ultimately that our Pasifika communities are the best champions for our health and should be leading the co-design of health policy that directly impacts NHPI wellness. “E fofo le alamea le alamea” — the remedy for the toxic sting of the Crown of Thorns starfish is the Crown of Thorns starfish itself — our communities intuitively have what we need to heal ourselves.”

Covid 19 has been devastating for Pasifika (NHPI) communities in the United States, but even more pronounced has been our people’s commitment to our Oceanian values of reciprocity, resource stewardship and service to our family clans that has really held our families survive tremendous grief and carve a path forward towards recovery and resilience.”

Joseph Seia is the Executive Director at the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington, Co-Chair of Undoing Institutional Racism Collaborative, and a Co-Chair of the Pacific Islander Center of Primary Care Excellence National NHPI Policy Council. Learn more about their work and why they’re an #AANHPIhealth Hero at http://www.picawa.org/.

Lorna delos Santos

“My work is important because I can educate and connect the underserved population about the programs and resources at Samahan Health that they need and may not be aware of to improve their health and quality of lives . My work gives me a feeling of satisfaction knowing that it makes a difference in other peoples’ lives.”

Lorna delos Santos is the Community Outreach Coordinator at Samahan Health Centers. Learn more about her work and why she’s an #AANHPIhealth Hero at https://www.operationsamahan.org/en/.

Stay tuned throughout the month of May to meet this year’s other #AANHPIhealth Heroes!



AAPCHO #AANHPIhealth Heroes

The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations — dedicated to promoting advocacy, collaboration and leadership to improve AA and NHPI health.