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December , 2018
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SPRINGFIELD, IL– The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) observed Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month by honoring Asian Americans who have dedicated their lives to public health.  Every May, IDPH takes the opportunity to celebrate the rich heritages and histories of this immigrant community by acknowledging the contributions the Asian-Pacific community has made to our Nation’s progress.

IDPH awarded six different Asian American Public Health Champions, across the state last month.  “The Public Health Champion award reflects the purpose of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, and honors remarkable individuals, celebrates their achievements, and recognizes their commitment to improving the health of Illinoisans,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.

The first three awardees were honored at the Wat Lao Budda Smaggi of Elgin on May 16.

Soukanh Thavisouk is a community health worker for the Laotian community. Thavisouk serves as Executive Director of Lao American Organization of Elgin, and works on health education and prevention programs focused on viral hepatitis B and colorectal cancer. He previously worked with the Young Women Christian Association as a job counselor to help incoming refugees from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Sirivone Khamphouy (“Nok”) and Phouphachan Syliton (“Jith”) are volunteer community health workers with the Lao American Organization of Elgin. Both of these individuals have worked tirelessly to bring women’s health education to the Lao community in the western and northern Illinois counties. Nok and Jith have led the Silk Brocade Project, a unique culturally tailored program to help increase regular testing for mammograms and Pap smears to screen for breast and cervical cancer among Lao women.

The fourth awardee was honored at the Marshall Clinic in Louisville on May 20.

Dr. Jennifer Maneja was nominated for her diligent work in the rural communities of Clay County and the surrounding areas.  Dr. Maneja has served (unpaid) as Assistant Medical Director for the Clay County Health Department Hospice Program and as Medical Director for the Clay County Health Department Home Health Program.  She has also given presentations on a variety of subjects to other health professionals and the community.  Dr. Maneja is originally from the Philippines.  In September 2014, the Illinois Rural Health Association also recognized Dr. Maneja as a Physician of Excellence.

The fifth awardee was honored at Korean American Community Services in Chicago on May 27.

Grace Lee is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) who has worked as a Family Counselor at the Korean American Community Services for the past three years.   Grace not only provides behavioral health services to individuals and families, but she also works with victims and child witnesses of domestic violence, clients with substance abuse issues, DCFS involved families, and is a school counselor in a suburban high school.

The sixth awardee will be honored at the Whiteside County Health Department on June 3.

Dr. Muhammad Salahuddin started at the Whiteside County Health Department/Whiteside County Community Health Clinic in February of 2006. Dr. Sala, as he is affectionately known, was instrumental in establishing policies, procedures, and quality control principals that set the stage for the Whiteside County Community Health Clinic to be recognized as a level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home in 2013. Further, Dr. Sala has gone back to Pakistan for weeks at a time to care for his family and friends back home.

IDPH thanks these awardees for their work ensuring that all Illinoisans receive high quality, comprehensive, and culturally competent health care and services.

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