Make Noise Today

For the third year in a row, MemorialCare is a sponsor of Make Noise Today (MNT), an initiative that provides a forum for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth to tell personal stories of their heritage and accomplishments, challenges, grit, inspiration, and culture. The initiative provides scholarships to students, as well as showcases their stories in an exhibit that will be on display at the Billie Jean King Main Library in Long Beach throughout the summer.

This year’s theme is “Amplifying Heritage, Empowering Future,” and MemorialCare staff and leaders joined in the efforts to amplify AAPI voices. Here are their stories.

Allison Ready

Business Admin, MemorialCare Shared Services

Read Allison’s Story

Allison ReadyI grew up in Huntington Beach, in a predominantly Caucasian community. I am Japanese American, but it never bothered me that I was one of the only Asians in my school. When I became a teenager, my parents wanted me to go to Japanese school or attend the Orange County Buddhist Church. I think they realized that I didn’t have any Japanese friends and wanted me to be a part of the Japanese community. I really didn’t want to go but to make them happy I started going to the Orange County Buddhist Church. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I didn’t realize how much about my Japanese culture I didn’t know, and it was nice to be around kids that celebrated and valued the same things my family did. I was content with my daily life but being a part of the Japanese community made me even more proud of my heritage.

Now as an adult, I still live in Huntington Beach, but the landscape has changed. My kids are of Japanese and Vietnamese heritage and have many friends of the same ethnicity. I am so glad that they can enjoy all aspects of the Asian community that is so much more predominant now. I never thought that I would be in health care, but I am so happy that I am in a field that is so multicultural and that cares for so many patients.

Denise Cruz

Medical Assistant, MemorialCare Medical Group

Read Denise’s Story

Denise CruzHafa Adai! This traditional Chamorro greeting holds a special place in my heart as it reminds me of my roots and the strong sense of community and hospitality that defines the people of Guam. My name is Denise Cruz, and I am proud to call Guam my home. Situated in the Western Pacific, Guam is a picturesque island territory known for its tropical beaches, Chamorro villages, and ancient latte-stone pillars. The latte stone pillars are a significant symbol of Guam, serving as building supports used by the ancient Chamorro people. These pillars can be found throughout the Mariana Islands and are a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the Chamorro people. In modern times, the latte stone has become a symbol of Chamorro identity, representing strength, resilience, and cultural pride. Growing up on Guam, I never imagined pursuing a career in health care. Initially, I had a background in computer science and worked as a medical biller and for a health insurance company. However, witnessing my mother's selfless dedication to caring for others inspired me to explore a career in health care from a different perspective – the clinical side.

In 2010, I made the bold decision to relocate to California as a single mother in search of better opportunities. Despite facing challenges in finding a job that aligned with my passion for health care, I remained determined to pursue my dreams. The biggest obstacle I encountered was figuring out childcare for my young son while I attended college. Ultimately, I made the difficult decision to send him back to his father to ensure that I could focus on my education and career goals. Becoming a medical assistant has been a transformative experience for me. In this role, I have embraced the responsibility of caring for patients with empathy and compassion, mirroring the selfless dedication of my mother. Just as the latte stone pillars provide support and stability, I strive to be a pillar of strength for my patients, offering comfort and care during their time of need. In conclusion, my journey from Guam to California and my transition into a career in health care have been shaped by my cultural heritage, personal experiences, and unwavering determination. As I walk in the footsteps of my mother, embodying the spirit of the latte stone, I am reminded of the resilience and strength that define the Chamorro people. May we continue to uphold the values of community, hospitality, and compassion in all that we do.

Franz Cordero, RN

Operations Manager, MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center

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Franz Cordero, RNI grew up in the Philippines, a country in Southeast Asia known for its rich culture, values, and norms. The Spaniards colonized us, which explains our religious beliefs toward Christianity.

My cultural background, moral values and family upbringing have been a part of me since I was a kid. I was surrounded by Catholic nuns and priests, having studied at a Catholic school from kindergarten until I completed my bachelor’s in nursing. Due to these factors, I found it difficult when I moved overseas 25 years ago. I found it hard to understand why the elderly have to shop for themselves and take public transport, and relatives place them in residential homes and put them on a do-not-resuscitate order. I thought that older people needed to be cared for by their relatives. I felt that they had to fight when their illness started taking over their health. Because of the cultural differences, I realized that each country has its belief system and practices, which could be overpowering. It provided me with insights into what palliative medicine and hospice are. As a health care provider, I needed to grasp cultural nuances. Understanding the differences between our cultures made me a better clinician, further advancing me to take higher education in my profession, improving better health outcomes and positive experiences.

Gary Iem

VP, Business Development & Strategic Services, MemorialCare Medical Foundation

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Gary IemAs a son of Chinese Cambodian refugees, my family upbringing played an important part of who I am today. As immigrants to this foreign country, navigating the health care system was often a great challenge for my family members. My grandparents were constantly in and out of the hospital battling manageable diseases with no assistance or guidance provided to them. At an early age, I had to serve in many roles, such as translator, scheduler, and care coordinator. I look back retrospectively, and it is still quite relevant today, but our health care system is not designed for native English speakers. This experience had challenged me to do better not just for my family but for my fellow community members. Witnessing all of this at a very young age, I have dedicated my life to fixing a broken health system. I went back to school and obtained a Master of Public Health (MPH) at UCLA with a focus on health equity. The work I do now at MemorialCare is to expand access to care and serve the needs of our community. I have the privilege to wake up every day and think about how we can redesign our health care system to serve the needs of everyone.

Ghe Rosales-Vong, M.D.

MemorialCare Medical Group

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Ghe VongOn Christmas Day in 9th grade, I had to go work hardwood floors with my dad at some person's house, because that was the most convenient time for the customer, when they were off on vacation. I was glad to have my dad back at home after he came back to start his own flooring business. He had been staying at my uncle's house in Oakland, learning the flooring trade for two years. Many of my uncles had gone through an apprenticeship at that same house, then went on to start their own businesses. The clan mentality that my family had transplanted from their native Vietnam was alive and strong here in the U.S.

Now my dad was back, but there were no fun and games. I very rarely got to act like other American teenagers and go chill out at the mall or play games at the arcade. Most weekends, I worked with my dad hauling 60 lb. bundles of wood even though I only weighed 115 lbs. myself. We generally worked from about 7 a.m. until whenever the work was done, sometimes needing a portable work lamp to finish our jobs at night.

Looking back now at when I was a teen trying to assimilate into American monoculture, I didn't give much attachment to my Chinese heritage (from Vietnam) at that time: it didn’t seem cool. Growing up, I didn't have even half of the serious challenges in life that my parents did, but that was by their design and sacrifice. In the end though, our culture, our family, our extended family, is what really mattered in life and put my whole generation in a position to succeed. I hope someone out there reading this will be able to find some inspiration and be fortunate to achieve their dreams as well.

Hanh Nguyen

Director, Strategic Initiatives, MemorialCare Shared Services

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Hanh Nguyen, Director, Strategic Initiatives, MemorialCare Shared ServicesBorn and raised in Vietnam for the first 13 years of my life, health care was a privilege that many could not easily access. I vividly remember the helplessness of witnessing my younger brother suffer from an asthma attack. Access to health care meant a harrowing journey, riding a motorbike with a sick child along pothole-ridden roads to reach a mediocre clinic staffed by a "trained" clinician.

This early experience ignited my determination to improve health care accessibility and quality. After obtaining a Master of Health Administration (MHA) from the University of Pittsburgh, I became motivated to work with nonprofit organizations. Using objective analytical approaches, my goal is to develop and evolve strategies, optimize finances, advance staff expertise, and leverage a holistic approach to organizational development, enhancing the care services available to community members.

With over 15 years of experience as a strategic partner to nonprofit health care organizations, I blend my passion for social impact with sound business expertise to help organizations make a meaningful difference. I am passionate about addressing community needs, expanding services, and training future health care clinicians. I feel blessed to be part of the MemorialCare Family, building services that benefit the Greater Long Beach community.

Outside of work, I cherish spending quality time with my three kind, witty, active children, and husband, exploring the beautiful landscapes of Southern California.

Jenilyn Aguirre

Director, Perioperative Services, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center

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Jenilyn Aguirre, Director, Perioperative Services, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical CenterI moved from the Philippines to the United States at the age of 23 to pursue my passion for nursing. I joined Orange Coast Medical Center in 2008 and it has been a wonderful journey over the past 16 years. I started as an operating room staff nurse, became a clinical supervisor, then nurse manager, and now I’ve been the director of perioperative services for the last two years.

When I graduated from high school, my family was not financially capable of sending me to college. My aunt who works as a nurse in the United States offered to support my studies only if she would consider nursing as a career. My aunt said there are many opportunities for nurses in the United States and having a nursing degree is a way out of poverty. With the desire to continue my education, I agreed to pursue nursing. As I embraced nursing as a profession, I realized that this is not only a way out of poverty but also helps family members understand the value of health care. Growing up in poverty, I witnessed my family self-diagnosing and relying on quack doctors to treat certain illnesses. My family is highly superstitious and does not seek out proper medical attention.

My determination and resilience led me to graduate and pass all necessary examinations to qualify for a nursing job in the United States.

Orange Coast Medical Center played a vital role in my progression to leadership. I was set up for success by my mentors who realized my potential as a leader. I learned to be strong, courageous, and resilient.

I also made sure to pay it forward when I financially supported my three sisters as they pursued a career in nursing. All the sacrifices, hard work, and having to leave family behind to work abroad are all worth it.

J.J. Frey, RN, BSN

Director, Medical and Surgical Units, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center

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IJ.J. Frey, RN, BSN, Director, Medical and Surgical Units, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center am the mixed-race son of a mother who immigrated from the Philippines and a father who was born in the Midwest of the U.S. but grew up in California. I was born in Southern California and grew up surrounded by multiculturalism. I was raised in a church that was largely Asian American (mostly Japanese, Korean, and Chinese) and I attended schools where the majority of the student body was made up of Black/African Americans and Latino-Americans. I’d like to think that I’ve adopted a lot of the best parts of those cultures and communities, and they’ve helped to form who I am today. As I reflect on all my influences growing up, I am reminded of how the ideas of service, selflessness and perseverance have been modeled for me, first by my parents and family and later in life by so many others. Those ideas have been incredibly formative for me and have had a significant impact on the way that I’ve lived and the decisions I’ve made throughout my life. In fact, I would say that it was those ideas that lead me to pursue a career in health care and have helped me to stay the course through the challenges that have come with that decision. When I’ve been surrounded by patients and families experiencing tragedy, I’m reminded that I’m there to serve and guide them, no matter how difficult. When I’ve been tempted to quit, I’m reminded of family members who persevered through struggles with mental health to keep on serving others. I am so grateful that I have a foundation that keeps me steady and anchored through the challenges of this profession.

Maui Llenado

Licensed Vocational Nurse, Memorial Care Medical Group

Read Maui’s Story

Health care was not a career path I was interested in when I was younger. My mom had a way of constantly pushing the idea of being in the medical field on me and that repelled me to it, especially because I didn’t want to fall into the stereotype of being a “Filipino nurse.” Growing up, my grandmother and aunts have always lived in our home with us so because of that, any one of us was always present to help and support them when necessary. We did not realize how it would become second nature when it came to helping our elders—whether it was assisting my Inang (grandmother) going up the stairs or picking up my aunt from dialysis during early mornings. It wasn’t until a few years after high school that I realized how much passion I have for helping people and that is when it dawned on me that maybe my mom’s encouragement was right all along. I wanted to make sure that being a nurse was something that I really wanted so I started off with an LVN program to set a foundation for myself in the case that I wanted to become an RN. I’ve been an LVN for over three years now and have absolutely no regrets about entering the medical field. I plan to pursue my BSN with only a few more prerequisite classes to complete. Becoming a nurse has been the biggest blessing I could have ever imagined. The knowledge, skills and compassion that came with this career are things I will never take for granted and will continue to share in my practice.

Mary Reyes, MSN, RN, GERO-BC, NMF

Director, Clinical Operations, Medical Surgical, Telemetry Services and Inpatient Rebab, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center

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Mary Reyes, MSN, RNGrowing up as a first-generation Filipino American with immigrant parents while pursuing a career in nursing involves navigating a complex web of familial obligations and high expectations. The cultural and generational divide between Filipino parents and their American-born children can create significant challenges. 

Filipino immigrant parents often emphasize the importance of hard work, education, and family loyalty – values deeply rooted in their cultural background. For a first-generation nurse, this means excelling academically and professionally while also adhering to the expectation of contributing to the family. This dual responsibility can be overwhelming, as the rigorous demands of nursing education and practice require immense dedication and time. Growing up, my parents were strict and often did not allow me to socialize much outside of our home or our cousin’s homes. I was not allowed to go over to a friend’s house until I had the freedom of driving myself. 

In many Filipino families, there is a strong emphasis on “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude), where children feel a profound obligation to repay their parents' sacrifices. This cultural expectation can lead to significant pressure, as first-generation nurses might be expected to financially support their families, assist with household duties, or care for younger siblings, all while managing their own educational and professional responsibilities. Balancing these duties can result in burnout and stress, often compounded by the stigma surrounding mental health in many Filipino communities, making it challenging to seek support.

Despite challenges, many first-generation Filipino American nurses draw strength from their cultural heritage. The values of resilience, sacrifice, and dedication instilled by their parents become invaluable assets in their nursing careers. These nurses often serve as role models within their communities, showcasing the ability to honor their familial and cultural obligations while achieving professional success.

I started as an associate degree RN, graduating from LA Harbor College in 1996. I went on obtain a bachelor’s degree in business administration then a Bachelor of Science in nursing. Being what seems like a forever learner, I went back to school for my master’s in nursing administration at UCLA while my two kids were in kindergarten and first grade. I have moved up the nursing administration ladder starting as a supervisor, manager, and associate director at two other hospitals. I was just promoted to director of medical surgical, telemetry services and inpatient rehab at MemorialCare three months ago. The positive is having the support of my parents as I achieved each milestone. I am currently in school for my Doctorate in Nursing Practice. My mom passed away 14 years ago, but it was her dream that I obtain my DNP. 

In summary, the journey of a first-generation Filipino American nurse is marked by the struggle to balance familial expectations and professional aspirations. While this path is fraught with challenges, it also fosters a deep sense of resilience and dedication, ultimately enriching the nursing profession with diverse perspectives and experiences.

Oliver Delacruz, MSN, RN, NE-BC

Executive Director, Acute Care Services, MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center

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Oliver Delacruz, MSN, RN, NE-BC, I grew up in a military family where my father served in the United States Air Force. Packing and moving every two to three years was just our norm, where we looked forward to exploring new cultures and communities. My parents instilled the value of education early in my childhood, making sure I did my best according to my abilities. I remember my mother giving me a notebook so I can practice writing and solving simple math problems. She just wanted me to be a little more prepared for school, and I managed to get straight A’s all the way up to 10th grade. But then all that changed when my father suddenly passed away. His death was untimely, and it sent us into a long season of grieving.

My dream of getting into a military academy fizzled away, and I ended up enrolling into a community college to gain a sense of direction. I also started working at a nearby urgent care, which put me into contact with nurses, medical assistants, and doctors. Watching them care for patients inspired me to become a medical assistant. When I completed my training, I began working for a large multi-specialty medical group where my heart settled on becoming a registered nurse. Fast forward 22 years later, I have grown into a leadership role where I get to influence nursing services and work with a lot of talented individuals from multiple disciplines. The fun part of leadership is mentoring and helping other people succeed, which is what I enjoy most. Being a nurse is a privilege, and I owe it all to Divine Providence for guiding me and giving me a specific purpose despite having a rough start after high school.

S. Helen Do

Vice President, Managed Care & Payor Contracting, MemorialCare Medical Foundation

Read Helen’s Story

S. Helen DoMy pronouns are she/her. I am bi-racial: Chinese and Vietnamese. I grew up speaking Chaozhou (Teochew) as my first language and did not learn English until grade school. We were refugees from Cambodia, and we had very little growing up. We relied on the generosity of others and government assisted programs like Medi-Cal. My mother encouraged me to work hard in school, be outspoken and take seize opportunities that were never available to her. Like other immigrant children, I played the role of translator for our family. The role became harder as I grew older and recognized the disparities between the quality of care based on zip codes. I also noticed very few doctors looked like me or understood our culture. This motivated me to work in health care. I believe everyone should have access to high quality health care regardless of their ability to pay and have dedicated my career to making this a reality.

Sandy Hsu

Regional Director, Clinical Operations, MemorialCare Medical Foundation

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Sandy HsuAs a child of Taiwanese immigrants, I grew up in a predominately white area in the Midwest. In my high school of about 2,000 kids, there were less than 10 minorities. I was often teased for being Asian and often felt ashamed of our heritage. When kids teased, gave me slanty eyes, or egged our house, we would just act like it was normal.

My mom was a registered nurse, and my father was an electrical engineer. After my mom immigrated, she struggled with the language barrier and stopped teaching nursing. My mom shared stories with me about her hardship of being a nurse but her struggles were more on acclimating to America. She even changed her first name to an “American” name. In my dad’s thirties, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. My mother became the sole bread winner as my father’s disease progressed. As a teenager I would accompany my father to see his doctor, help navigate our complicated health care system, and learned to advocate for him.

During my twenties, there was a rise in Asian gangs in the inner city. There was a group of us that became the first mentors for an organization called Asians Mentoring Asian Youth. I wanted to be a positive role model for younger Asians. My mentee and I immediately connected as she also had an immigrant father who was disabled. Through our mentoring relationship I realized how much I wanted to help make health care easier to navigate for others. She also had similar struggles with immigrant parents and assimilating to the American culture.

I now see being Taiwanese American as something to be embrace. Overcoming my shame of being different and having a parent with a disability has ignited my passion to improve health care for all communities.

Sasanapirath “Sasna” Vong

Manager, Respiratory Care, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center

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Sasanapirath “Sasna” Vong, Respiratory Manager, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical CenterMy name is Sasanapirath Vong. I am a father, husband, leader in health care and a first generation Cambodian American. My name Sasna means religion and I was named by my father Saem Vong, a Buddhist Monk who was well versed in Sanskrit and Khmer literature. During the genocide of Khmer Rouge (1975 to 1979), educated or literate people were either persecuted or murdered causing many of them to flee the county. My father decided to stay and help countless Cambodians prepare their visa so they could come to America for a better life. It was his way of helping people overcome their challenges and escape oppression.

Hearing the stories of how my father served the Cambodian people empowered me at a very young age and helped me understand the importance of serving my community. I was raised to be kind, compassionate and to support others, which is why I decided to seek a profession in the medical field. I also saw that there was a lack of people in the medical field that look like me or understood my culture. I knew that I could help ease those who feared going to the doctor or seeking medical attention due to their inability to understand or speak the language. As I look back, I realized that I was able to be like my father, I was able to help my Cambodian community understanding the importance of health care and at times being there for them during the most difficult times of their lives.

The City of Long Beach is my home and has the largest population of Cambodian in the United States, something that I am so proud of. What I am most proud of though is that I get to follow in the footsteps of my father and teach my children that they too can help other and our community by serving. I am thankful to MemorialCare for giving me this opportunity to serve our community at such a high level of quality and care.

Tiffany Giang

Manager, Strategy & Business Integration Program, MemorialCare Shared Services

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Tiffany Giang, Strategy & Business Integration Program Manager, MemorialCare Shared ServicesHaving grown up in a community where English is not the primary language and seeing the disparities in health care, I knew I wanted to work in a career where I’d be able to help patients and their families bridge their care with access and quality. It’s tough hearing stories where patients have felt disregarded because they can’t fully communicate their feelings due to a crossover of language barriers and cultural differences. It’s even tougher having to question whether they will receive the care they need in a timely manner because translators and language services were not accessible. Communications bring ease no matter where you are in the world. To me, finding an organization that surrounds my community whose better interest is to expand access to care, quality of care and build meaningful relationships with their patients for lifelong care is important. Having been a part of MemorialCare for over five and a half years, I can speak from experience that MemorialCare works hard to help bridge community gaps by offering a 24/7 language line at their navigation center, ambulatory clinics, urgent care, and hospital campuses. There are physicians and staff of various cultural backgrounds who speak multiple languages to support the patient experience. Knowing that even if someone isn’t available, there is technology available to connect a certified translator to patients and their care team to make sure what they’re feeling is not missed. More patients can confidently initiate care without worry of being lost in translation, being a part of that effort and continuing to improve it for inclusivity has made it rewarding.