Past Experiences Fuel My Passion for Healthcare Equity and Inclusion

Past Experiences Fuel My Passion for Healthcare Equity and Inclusion

By Hiroshi Nakano, VP Value Based Initiatives, Valley Medical Center

Valley’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work is meaningful to me because of what my past experiences have taught me. It starts with growing up in the Tacoma area within a strong, but shrinking, Japanese American community that was disrupted during WWII because of the relocation of 110,000 American citizens and immigrants to isolated and armed concentration camps. In my family’s case, they were sent to Camp Tule Lake near the Oregon/California border. My mother, father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and my not-yet-born oldest brother went to the camp for 3 1/2 years. It taught me that with the stroke of a President’s pen, whole lives, families and communities can be disrupted when racial hysteria is promoted by those in power in government, the media, and business. Learn more.

When I entered college at the University of Washington in the 1970s, I was introduced to the Asian student movement and forms of injustice experienced by other Asian immigrant communities. Learn more.

My other major influence has been healthcare. I started my journey as a summer undergraduate intern organized by the University of Washington Office of Minority Affairs and the School of Public Health. They wanted to introduce and encourage students of color to consider careers in healthcare administration (re: leadership) and I needed a summer job. This led me to discover how community health and health insurance coverage works and what gaps exist for patients in the American healthcare system. It has driven my vision for healthcare delivery, equity, and finance for my entire career.

Lastly, my current work at Valley increases the value of healthcare for our patients and community and supports the vision of an inclusive and high-reliability organization that is meeting the healthcare needs and patient goals of an increasingly diverse community. Or what we like to say at Valley: “Caring for our community like family.” This is my story. Please join me, the EDI staff and committee members, in this journey toward improving equity in the care we provide and add your story to the narrative.

Hiroshi Nakano also serves as Executive Champion for Valley Medical Center’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee. In September 2022, he was awarded the Ethel Bond Memorial Consumer Award by the National Association of Community Health Centers. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a high level of excellence in the community healthcare field.

Nakano joined the International Community Health Services organization in 1996 as a consumer board member, followed by 10 years as board president. He continues to serve to this day in ICHS leadership roles, and on boards and committees of NACHC, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, and other organizations dedicated to expanding healthcare access.

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office