Winston Wong
Winston Wong
Director, Disparities Improvement and Quality Initiatives, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit,
Kaiser Permanente

What You’d Be Surprised to Know about Me

I’ve had a number of different life experiences that deviate from what people might think is the typical path of becoming a doctor. Among those paths: I’ve been a game show contestant, a football player, a street activist, and an ethnic studies major.

My Greatest Strength

I’m an active and disciplined listener. I ask myself to challenge assumptions whenever I hear people from different backgrounds or perspectives. I go through a conscious process of trying to move away from any stereotypes that I might have of an individual when I first meet them or hear them. It’s important to be very consciously and intentionally open-minded in order to cultivate as much learning as possible.

Who Inspires Me

I’m inspired by the patients I care for. They include a lot of people who have immigrated to the United States relatively late in their lives. For example, my patient might be an 80-year-old woman from rural China who recently came to the United States to help her children and grandchildren. These people have a lot of fortitude—they are hard-working and humble, and they’ve put aside their own needs and dreams to be supportive of the needs of their families. I constantly remind myself of what I need to learn as a healer and care provider about the people I care for.

The Model Minority Myth

It’s a pernicious one. It’s been part of the profile of Asian/Pacific Americans for almost a century now, which has really handicapped our community in terms of making our needs better known to the broader public. There are so many needs within the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) community that are unmet, and disparities that are not recognized or fully understood.

On a personal level, I know the model minority myth can get in the way of how my messages about health equity and disparities in the API community are regarded; there’s likely a higher bar that I have to get to in order to convince listeners that there are deeply rooted and serious issues in the API community.

Our Most Critical Issue

There are disparities that are characterized by pretty significant differences in social stability, history, language, and social experience. That heterogeneous feature of Asian/Pacific Islanders can dilute our consciousness as a group in terms of what we need to do together to elevate not only the conditions of their community, but the overall progress of our country towards achieving equity. In the Asian/Pacific Islander community there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of understanding the dynamics of our community relative to the great differences in social stature and assimilation.

Lessons I’ve Learned

Among the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career is how to maintain a vision of what’s possible, and at the same time be pragmatic and opportunistic, so that you have a very good sense of making progress and don’t get discouraged. At the same time, you can’t be complacent just because you’ve reach a goal.

My Best Career Advice

There’s no formula for how one gets to their career path. Everyone’s journey is different. It’s just important to know you’re making your own path and realizing not only fulfillment in your career, but fulfillment as a family member and an active contributor to your community and society.

My Favorite Quote

“Every journey starts with a single step.”
– Confucius

We don’t know where each one of our choices will lead us, but it is important to make choices and trust that they are driven by our deepest core values. If you have confidence in that, the journey will always be a valuable one.