Clinical Center News
April / May 2023

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an observance that has been in effect for over 30 years.

Even before this observance, the Clinical Center has ties to the Asian American community through Warren G. Magnuson. Magnuson – to which a large section of the Clinical Center is named after – was a legislator who sponsored the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943, which repealed some discriminatory exclusion laws and permitted some Chinese immigrants already in the US to become naturalized citizens. Read "Hospital namesake ended Chinese exclusion" to learn more about Magnuson.

Originally Asian/Pacific American Heritage was a 10 day observance started in 1977 as House Joint Resolution 540 and soon solidified into a week in the years from 1978 to 1980 before Congress expanded the observance to a full month in 1990. This became official in 1992 during the George H. W. Bush administration, with the passing of Public Law 102-540.

In 1993, the year after Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was written into law, Sandy Seubert joined the Clinical Center's Nutrition Department. Since then she has worked in several other parts of the hospital before finding her home in the Office of Workforce Management and Development. Seubert has seen the organization grow in many ways during that time, saying that "everything has changed." She expands to say that includes not only the physical layout of the hospital and leadership changes, but also that the hospital has become more culturally aware and inclusive over time. She expressed that she appreciates the feeling of physical safety within the hospital, which is not always the case outside of work.

Seubert spoke about a couple of the cultural idiosyncrasies of her experience being a Clinical Center employee of Chinese ancestry. She explained to me that she is an 'ABC' – an American-born Chinese person, and that there were times where she felt somewhat isolated from employees who immigrated to the United States from China. This division was somewhat exacerbated that her lineage spoke Cantonese, which is different from the Mandarin dialect spoken on the Chinese mainland and common in the diaspora.

She feels that the times have changed dramatically since the 1990s and is grateful that the hospital's cultural integration has improved tremendously within that time – but that there are still opportunities to improve. The Lunar New Year is an enormously important holiday within many Asian cultures and finding a way to acknowledge this would likely be very meaningful to the many employees within the hospital.

There are many events throughout the month of May in honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Visit the Library of Congress hosted website Asian Pacific Heritage Month for more information and events.

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