Tessa Chu and Dr. Raj Sundar • Courtesy

From within the heart of Seattle’s Asian Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander American (ANHPIA) community, the Healthcare for Humans podcast emerges as a bridge connecting systemic gaps in patient care. The series serves as a reflective lens, deeply exploring the intricate relationship between cultural identity and medical services, born from the lived experiences and challenges faced by the ANHPIA community and others.

Healthcare for Humans, launched in May 2022, has produced 39 episodes featuring a diverse array of clinicians, historians, and community organizers. The series aims to deepen listeners’ understanding of various communities and discover culturally sensitive approaches to healthcare.

By engaging with community experts, the podcast explores essential considerations in health perception, effective practices for Western-trained providers, the importance of cultural interpreters, and strategies to build trust and mental wellness in environments where mental health stigma is prevalent, particularly among immigrant populations.

Dr. Raj Sundar and Tessa Chu, the visionary co-founders, bring to the forefront stories that are often left in the shadows, offering a platform for voices that are seldom heard in mainstream medical narratives. In doing so, Healthcare for Humans transcends conventional discourse, presenting a unique blend of personal stories, cultural insights, and expertise.

The inception of the podcast was significantly influenced by Dr. Raj Sundar’s reflections on his experiences in the healthcare system. “It started because I wasn’t fully addressing the needs of immigrant and refugee patients,” he explained. “The healthcare system often puts people in boxes without understanding their unique values and beliefs. This inspired me to use podcasting as a medium to let individuals from diverse backgrounds speak for themselves, providing a more nuanced perspective.”

Dr. Sundar’s initiative began with a meaningful conversation with a leader in the Ethiopian community. “That discussion opened my eyes and showed me there’s a profound gap in our healthcare model,” he said. “Sharing these stories proved enlightening not just for me, but also for my colleagues.”

Tessa Chu, alongside her role in Healthcare for Humans, serves on the board of Directors at the International Community Health Services (ICHS). Her involvement with ICHS underscores her commitment to ensuring underserved populations have a voice and access to affordable care services.

“I’ve seen firsthand what it’s like when my parents go to healthcare. There are barriers to immigrants or people from different types of communities when they go to the traditional U.S. healthcare system. It’s complicated to navigate,” said Chu. “This podcast was one of the first times I felt like we were getting into the details of hearing people’s stories from these communities and getting more specific about how we tailor care.”

The podcast has already built a foundation of 39 episodes and counting, including interviewing guests from the Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Cambodian, and Chinese communities, and aiming to do more episodes on the Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and Filipino communities in the future.

One of those episodes features Ron Chew who delves into the historical intricacies of Chinese immigration, the concept of food as medicine, and identity navigation within healthcare frameworks. Another bedrock episode has Tagoipah Mathno illuminating the unique healthcare challenges encountered by the Cham community. Mathno’s discussion emphasizes the varied healthcare experiences across different cultural groups.

In the Aliya Haq episode, culturally sensitive nutrition is brought to the forefront. Haq, from International Community Health Services (ICHS), discusses how dietary habits are intrinsically linked to cultural identity, something hardly even acknowledged in traditional care.

Finally of note, the Theresa Fujiwara episode weaves into the podcast’s broader narrative the significant history and ongoing evolution of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). This episode highlights the organization’s foundational role in addressing the comprehensive needs of Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees, focusing on both initial medical care and broader social services for mental well-being.

“To found ACRS, they focused on grassroots efforts, hiring staff with lived experiences to connect with refugees coming to Seattle in the 1970s with severe trauma,” said Chu. “It was about providing holistic support, including healing circles, therapy, and practical assistance like food stamps.”

These episodes give a comprehensive view of the various dimensions influencing perceptions and practices within the diverse communities within our area. Looking

ahead, the podcast is poised to further impact the community by addressing pressing issues in collaboration with the King County Department of Health.

Two upcoming episodes focus on hepatitis B and latent tuberculosis — conditions that disproportionately affect immigrant and particularly Asian communities, highlighting the podcast’s commitment to community-specific challenges.

“Our partnership aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding these diseases through education and open dialogue. Given the high prevalence and cultural misconceptions associated with hepatitis B and latent tuberculosis in immigrant populations, our episodes aim to shed light on these conditions, encouraging preventative measures and screenings,” said Dr. Sundar.

Chu added: “Awareness is key. By discussing how hepatitis B is transmitted and the simple steps towards prevention, such as vaccination, we hope to allay fears and encourage community-wide health screenings.”

By collaborating with authorities and community partners, Healthcare for Humans not only informs but also empowers listeners to take proactive steps towards betterment, reinforcing its role as an educational and transformative medium in public discourse.

One of those collaborations contributes to the ongoing professional development of clinicians through its innovative use of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits. This approach aligns seamlessly with the podcast’s mission to bridge understanding across diverse cultures.

This educational strategy ensures that providers can fulfill part of their licensure requirements while gaining insights into the diverse perspectives and needs of the communities they serve. By incorporating these professional development elements, the

podcast extends its impact beyond storytelling, fostering an environment where empathy and understanding are paramount.

Dr. Sundar emphasized the significance of this educational component, stating, “Healthcare knowledge is constantly evolving, and as professionals, we must stay informed. Our podcast aids in this by offering CME credits through reflection-based content, addressing gaps in cultural sensitivity and patient care.”

Through its in-depth exploration of healthcare narratives, the podcast has illuminated the varied experiences within Seattle’s diverse populations, catalyzing greater understanding and empathy.

Healthcare for Humans invites everyone to contribute to this evolving conversation. By subscribing and providing feedback, listeners can actively participate in shaping a more inclusive healthcare dialogue. Engage with the series at www.healthcareforhumans.org and join a community united in the pursuit of empathetic and culturally informed care.

This story was produced in partnership with our media sponsor Communities of Opportunity, a growing movement of partners who believe every community can be a healthy, thriving community.

Previous articleRemembering Matt Chan, Chinatown International District activist and TV producer
Next articleMitsuye Endo Tsutsumi deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom