Taking up the baton: Meet the Obama alumni making their mark on health care

Juliet Choi

As a college student, I experienced firsthand how incredibly daunting it is to secure health care, especially when your loved ones don’t have insurance. I wanted to find a way to translate my immigrant families’ experiences with the health care system into advocacy and system reform.

Position in the campaign/administration: Chief of Staff for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the Department of Homeland Security and former Senior Advisor to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services

Currently: President and CEO of the American Pacific Islands and Asian Health Forum

Then

In 2011, Juliet Choi was asked to serve in the Obama administration as chief of staff for two agencies, in two departments: chief of staff and senior counsel for the HHS Office of Civil Rights (2011- 2014) and from US Citizenship and Immigration Services to DHS (2014-2017).

As a member of the Obama administration, Juliet was influenced and inspired to enhance her opportunities as a change agent, leader and community advocate. During her seven years serving in the administration, Juliet met with communities across the country, hearing stories from families about the discrimination they faced trying to access health care and meeting with international communities while families navigated their immigration journey. These stories and experiences inspired Juliet to continue her pursuit of racial, health, and community equity.

There is and always will be a need for community connection, and as leaders, I believe it is up to all of us to leverage our respective platforms to amplify the joy, opportunity, and responsibility of bringing community voices to the first national plan to drive and influence policy-making. and innovation, whether here in the US or globally.

the legacy and the impact of the ACA

Juliet has continued her service supporting and extending care to millions of Americans. She currently serves as President and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, one of the oldest and largest health justice organizations for the broader Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. peaceful

In her work at the APIA Health Forum, Juliet has had the opportunity to create and advocate for better health protections for the AANHPI community. Through her service, Juliet has seen the critical role that access to health can play in a person’s quality of life, especially in times of uncertainty. Access to quality health care is treated as a privilege in this country, when it is something necessary for the survival and well-being of civil society, the COVID-19 pandemic really exposed how so many of our communities they are really vulnerable and perhaps needlessly so. This space allows me to advocate for ignored and underserved communities and defend their right to affordable health care.

When reflecting on the ACA and its impact on healthcare, Juliet spoke specifically about access to care for AANHPI communities around access, education and collection of data: The ACA opened several avenues to engage and expand efforts to reach vulnerable populations such as Asian Americans. , Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and many more communities. While most people credit the ACA with expanding access to affordable health insurance, for my field of work, the ACA completely reshaped the health care landscape to address equitable access. It authorized a critical financial investment in community navigators to help people enroll in coverage—many of these communities and navigators and advocates offer support in multiple languages, helping communities with limited English proficiency participate for the first time in the healthcare market.

Most notably, section 1557 of the ACA, what I like to call a small but mighty statute, the first civil rights statute enacted since the Americans with Disabilities Act, explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin nationality, age, disability. , or sex in covered health programs or activities. This is justice.

Juliets advice for people who want to pursue a career in health

Remember that the change you desire can change someone’s life or family circumstances for the better in monumental, perhaps unfathomable, ways. As rewarding as health advocacy is, you have to be true to yourself. Find ways to stay grounded and find humor and joy—there’s always a silver lining. And taking care of yourself is not an option but a mandate and requires time and intentionality.

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Image Source : www.obama.org

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