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AAPI Heritage Month: Reflecting on Growth and Community

When it launched in 2020, the NM Champion Network – our network of employee resource groups – aimed to help foster a sense of belonging and community at Northwestern Medicine. Three years later, members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Chapter say it’s working.

“I’ve always struggled bringing my authentic self to the workplace because of who I am, because of my culture,” explains chapter member Dhara Lynch, practice manager, Clinical Support, Northwestern Medicine Glenview Outpatient Center. “Hearing how others have struggled with the same thing because of their cultural backgrounds is powerful. It’s enlightening to hear that shared struggle and then be able to talk with one another about our experiences.”

The NM Champion Network has five chapters for members and allies of historically underrepresented communities: African Descendants, AAPI, Disability, Latinx and LGBTQ.

Sharing Solidarity

In recent years, AAPI people have faced an unprecedented rise in hate crimes. Marc Iraola, MSN, RN, ONC, is a senior application analyst, Information Services, at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and leads the AAPI Chapter’s Community Outreach Committee. He says that the chapter’s growth as these crimes continue has opened discussion for members and allies to learn about one another’s hardships and experiences.

“The AAPI Chapter is our glue,” he says. Iraola, who is Filipino, was born in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, emigrated to the Philippines and later came to the United States. “The chapter gives us a platform to share and learn from one another. It’s nice to see how closely rooted we all are, despite our unique stories.”

Lynch, who is a first-generation Indian American, says she did not expect to connect so deeply with the stories she has heard from others in the chapter.

“The conversations we’ve had have put into perspective how we as a group of AAPI people are more bonded than we might have guessed,” she explains. “Whether it’s related to assimilation, bullying or simply being marked as different, there are so many common experiences across all AAPI identities.”

Fostering Friendship

The NM Champion Network has not just helped build empathy and understanding here at Northwestern Medicine; it has also helped members form lasting relationships. Through conversations and participation in events, the sense of community and fellowship in the AAPI Chapter have continued to blossom.

“Until recently, I never had a work community of people with AAPI backgrounds,” explains Iraola. “It’s been refreshing to be a part of the Champion Network because it empowers us to be our true selves and allows us not to hide behind any cloaks or walls.”

When you join the team at Northwestern Medicine, you can also join the NM Champion Network as a member of a group or as an ally. Participation supports personal and professional growth, enhances your sense of belonging, and allows you to hold space for important conversations. No matter who you are or what you do at Northwestern Medicine, there is a place for you here.