Faculty, staff and learners find community amid COVID-19

December 7, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees, ,

As the pandemic continues, and variants evolve from Delta to Omicron, fear of people’s reactions — and the lifestyle changes that come along with those fears — are prevalent for many in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

“There’s certainly a level of uneasiness that many AAPI folks feel right now,” said Stacey Nguyen, DEI trainer and facilitator in the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion. “Our community has been targeted, attacked and scapegoated throughout this pandemic, and with every variant comes this deep-seated anxiety that acts of hate and discrimination against people who look like me will continue to increase.”

The need to raise awareness

A nationally represented survey conducted by Stop AAPI Hate and the Edelman Data & Intelligence Team estimates that nearly one in five Asian Americans (21.2%) and Pacific Islanders (20.0%) have experienced a hate incident in the past year.

“The AAPI community here at Michigan Medicine has expressed the need in not only raising awareness about these incidences and experiences, but also in providing a space for people to share and to understand that they are not alone,” Nguyen said. 

The Michigan Medicine AAPI Resource Group has been growing and gaining momentum at Michigan Medicine to support concerns such as these among those who identify as and support the AAPI community. The DEI resource group is helping to make Michigan Medicine’s culture more inclusive, engaged, productive and aligned to support strategic goals and organization core values. 

“This is all about creating a sense of true belonging and safety for the AAPI community,” said Erin Khang, a Michigan Medicine social work manager and a core member of the group. “For a group that isn’t often proportionally represented, community can make or break someone’s sense of self efficacy, self-esteem, and mental/emotional well-being. In recognizing this, we want to keep elevating the work of AAPI inclusion and adding to the conversation around anti-racism efforts at Michigan Medicine.”

Creating growth and advocacy

The AAPI resource group is open to faculty, staff and learners. Student representation like that from Alice Liu, a second-year medical student who has been involved with the resource group from its inception, is imperative to understanding the concerns of learners at Michigan Medicine.

“I was privileged to grow up with a strong Asian community,” Liu said. “No matter where I go, I seek out an AAPI community because it always reminds me of home. In joining the AAPI Resource Group, I know there will always be someone who just gets me without me having to explain myself and my whole backstory. 

“It’s nice to be connected to mentors who can help me grow professionally, but also to have a supportive community. With everything that’s happened, from COVID-19 to the shooting in Atlanta last March, I was left feeling dejected, isolated and wondering if anyone else even cared,” Liu continued. “With the AAPI Resource Group, even despite our differences in generations, discipline and ethnicity, to see and meet like-minded souls who were also hurting and mourning was truly healing.”

Jesper Ke, another a second year medical student and member of the resource group shared: “The events around COVID-19 brought more awareness to the overt hate and discrimination that AAPIs have historically faced, but my hope is that the resource group will also help to address other matters that affect the AAPI community, such as significant health disparities in seeking mental health care, and the unacknowledged bias that AAPI learners, staff and faculty face in the work setting, including being assumed as ‘not leadership material.’

“If Michigan Medicine wants to achieve the goals and recommendations set forth by the Anti-Racism Oversight Committee last year, it is essential to include the AAPI community as well. I hope that through the resource group, we can create growth, learning and advocacy spaces for the AAPI community, and contribute toward a vision of anti-racism that is inclusive of all identities.”

The Office for Health Equity & Inclusion (OHEI) sponsors Michigan Medicine’s resource groups. Resource groups facilitate the sharing of information with Michigan Medicine senior leaders to foster inclusion and collaboration for our diverse faculty, staff and learners. To learn more, visit the OHEI website.