May 2, 2022

Celebrating AAPI Health Equity Leaders: Past, Present, and Future

Learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander health champions making a difference in communities across the country.

Asian American communities have been cornerstone cultural influences throughout history. Healthier Generation is proud to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) health champions who cultivate diversity and health equity in their communities and beyond all year round.

In recognition of this year’s AAPI Heritage Month theme, Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration, Yolanda Ifflander, school nurse with Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, and Mina Fedor, founder of AAPI Youth Rising, share life lessons, their biggest influences, and what drives them in their work to create healthier, more inclusive communities for youth across the country.

Q: Which AAPI historical figures or role models have had an impact on your life and the work you’re doing today?

Yolanda: My mother, who was born in the Philippines, was and is the most influential person in my life. She battled heart and kidney disease in her 40s, and unfortunately succumbed to them.

Through that experience, I got a chance to see healthcare providers work. I knew then that I wanted to become part of that caring community. - Yolanda Ifflander

Mina Fedor, AAPI Youth Rising

Mina: Grace Lee Boggs inspires me in so many ways. She was a writer, social activist, philosopher, and feminist. She is the definition of an intersectional activist.

As a civil rights leader in Detroit, she dedicated her life to communities of color, workers, and youth. As someone who worked with the Black Power movement and the Detroit AAPI community, she bridged communities and built allyship during a divisive time. She worked her whole life to create positive change. Her big thinking and compassionate activism inspire me every day. 

Q: What are some “big picture” lessons you've learned or wins you’re proud of as a community leader?

Yolanda Ifflander, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Yolanda: While working as a nurse during the pandemic, I went from delivering COVID-19 tests to the State of Alaska and waiting for results for at least a week, to having Abbott COVID-19 test machines in my school nursing office. It felt good to be able to get answers in 10-20 minutes to my students and families who were sick.

Mina: I have so much to celebrate. I celebrate every young person who speaks out about any issue, because youth voices must be represented. I have learned so much this year from the youth around me. Youth voices are often overlooked, but we are the future. We must be heard, and we must also actively engage with the world around us.

I also celebrate learning about different points of view. This diversity of thought is what challenges us to think in different ways. 

Q: What are you excited about or hopeful for as you look to the future?   

Yolanda: Personally, I am retiring from school nursing this year. I have been a nurse since the 1980s in various fields of nursing. I am excited to see what my new adventures will be now that I am 61. 

Mina: I am hopeful for inclusive education and a future where students are taught diverse histories. Education is key to preventing racism, misinformation, and stereotyping, so when I see changes finally happening, I have hope. Recently AB 101, the ethnic studies mandate for high schoolers, passed in California. Although this issue has been politicized, learning about our diverse histories is a right students deserve.

It’s time to re-think how we can equally represent American history – and this is a moment for change. - Mina Fedor

Many thanks to our health champions, for your work and the stories you've shared!

Are there AAPI historical figures, role models, or educators who have had an impact on your life? Tag @HealthierGen on Twitter or @healthiergeneration on Instagram to share your thoughts using #AAPIHeritageMonth and #HealthyFuture. 

Check out these AAPI Month Resources

History of AAPI Heritage Month

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Nicole Blanton

Manager, Culturally Responsive Communications | Alliance for a Healthier Generation