Celebrating remarkable Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
The Asian American Pacific Islander community at Boston Children's Hospital help make this a place where the world comes for answers. (Image: Adobe Stock/Illustration: David Chrisom, Boston Children's)

Boston Children’s Hospital thrives, thanks in part to the contributions of its Asian American and Pacific Islander staff and clinicians. Whether developing innovative treatments for chronic disease, treating children with complex conditions, or organizing online events to bring remote teams together during the pandemic, our Asian American and Pacific Islander team members are central to the world-class pediatric care patients receive at Boston Children’s.

Here, we highlight just a few of the remarkable individuals whose contributions help make Boston Children’s a place where patients and families come for answers.

Dr. Man Wai Ng, Dentist in chief, Department of Dentistry
Dr. Ng outside in the winter with her husband and two sons.
Dr. Ng with her husband and sons

My work in the Department of Dentistry is divided into three main categories: patient care, teaching, and administration. I am also involved in clinical research and advocacy.

Proudest achievement: Professionally, I am most proud of my research and advocacy in dental caries management. Dental caries (tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease of childhood: five times more prevalent than asthma and seven times more prevalent than hay fever. Dental caries management approaches tooth decay as a chronic disease. This approach has only gained wide acceptance in the dental profession in the last decade, partly as a result of our work at Boston Children’s.

Personally, I am most proud of my two children. They managed to make the best of the COVID pandemic and thrived in the process.

Inspired by: My mother. As the oldest of four children growing up in China, she only received a grade school education and was a low-wage laborer for her entire life. But with determination and encouragement, she made sure my brother and I were both able to pursue our educational dreams in the United States.

Michael Ikoma, Team Lead and Senior Talent Ambassador, Human Resources
Michael as a young boy with his grandmother as she prepares to cut his birthday cake.
Michael with his grandmother Ige

I lead a team of administrative and support services talent ambassadors and recruit candidates for various administrative departments and positions.

Proudest achievement: While I take pride in my talent-acquisition work, I am most proud of being part of the Asian and Pacific Islander Collaborative (APIC) at Boston Children’s. It’s an honor to partner with a diverse group of passionate individuals who are helping make APIC a resource for the Boston Children’s community. 

Inspired by: My grandmother, Kazuko Ige. She lived in California during World War II. After being separated from her parents at the age of 16, she cared for her four younger siblings as they and 120,000 other people of Japanese descent (many of whom were American citizens) were incarcerated in concentration camps. Forty years later, she testified before Congress and helped organize the Redress Movement to obtain restitution of civil rights, an apology, and compensation from the U.S. government.

Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, Director, Clinical Research Center, Division of Immunology
Dr. Phipatanakul with her husband and two kids on a summer holiday.
Dr. Phipatanakul with her family

I lead the Asthma Clinical Research Center in the Division of Immunology. My research team of about 50 people specializes in the study of pediatric asthma and allergy disorders, particularly among children who grow up in urban environments.

Proudest achievement: My kids! My daughter is a high school student interested in medicine. My son has autism and has come such a long way.  

Professionally, I’m very proud of building a multi-million-dollar NIH research center to study asthma in high-risk kids — from scratch. Our research and work in local communities are leading to a better understanding of why children from low-income neighborhoods suffer serious asthma attacks at a disproportionate rate. We are paving the way to innovative approaches to prevention, treatment, and possibly a cure that will help reduce this health care disparity.  

Inspired by: My parents. They came to this country with nothing, hoping for a better life for their kids. My late mom was an allergist and inspired me to follow in her footsteps. Like her, I strive for excellence and making a positive impact.

Dr.  Aditya  "AK" Kaza, Director of the Neonatal Cardiac Surgery Program
Dr. Kaza smiling on the top of a mountain with blue sky in the background.
Dr. Kaza on Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire

I treat children with heart defects. My patients range in age from newborn to adult. The surgeons in the Department of Cardiac Surgery specialize in treating all types of cardiac defects including complex heart defects that others are not able to treat. Every time we treat a patient, our goal is to ensure they can grow up to have as normal a life as possible.

Proudest achievement: Much of my life has been dedicated to public service. In 2018, I earned an MBA from MIT while working full time. My impetus for getting this degree was a desire to help Boston Children’s bolster its position as the most innovative pediatric hospital in the world. The hospital’s work to promote health equity, for instance, has the potential to have a positive impact on our society as a whole.

Inspired by: Mahatma Gandhi. He laid the framework for eliminating social injustice in the Indian subcontinent many years ago and his work continues to resonate around the world. I think we can learn from Gandhi’s message, which is that things like health care and basic human rights should be available to all people, not just a privileged few.

Dr. Young-Jo Kim, Director, Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program

I am an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip surgery for both children and young adults. My colleagues in radiology and I have done extensive research using advanced MRI techniques to see what happens to the hip joint after redirectional osteotomy, a surgical procedure to correct hip dysplasia

Proudest achievement: Serving as surgical lead for a team of surgical, nursing, and support staff involved in the Hale Building Readiness Project in preparation for the opening of new Hale Family Building next year. We’ve had to change how nurses work, change how supplies and equipment are delivered, and change how surgeons schedule and plan their procedures, all while the OR is running full steam. 

Inspired by: My grandfathers. My father passed away when I was 10 years old and my grandfathers taught me how to be humble and lead by example, even though they were both very accomplished people. My paternal grandfather was a lawyer and a member of the National Assembly of the Chungcheong Province in Korea. My maternal grandfather was an economist and a minister of agriculture.

Karen Vo, Executive Assistant, Department of Accountable Care and Clinical Integration
Karen relaxing at a restaurant.
Karen will receive her Master’s in health care administration this June

I provide support to the Executive Director/Medical Director and four other directors in the Department of Accountable Care and Clinical Integration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I took the lead in organizing events like online BINGO and monthly hangouts to help keep our team engaged while working remote.

Proudest achievement: Joining and later becoming president of the Asian Student Association at Emmanuel College as an undergrad. I didn’t have this sort of group growing up, and it definitely strengthened my outlook and understanding of Asian American heritage. More recently, I completed the coursework for a Masters in healthcare administration and will graduate in June.

Inspired by: My parents! They constantly push me to work hard, go for new opportunities, and be a good example for my younger sister. They have been running their own business since before I was born and always worked hard to provide for me and my siblings. I’m also inspired by Asian American authors like Mary HK Choi, Jenny Han, and Celeste Ng.

Learn about health equity at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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