District IX Chair Candidate: Yasuko Fukuda, MD, FAAP
“A long and winding road….”
My journey with the American Academy of Pediatrics has been fulfilling on a professional and very personal level.
Indulge me in sharing my personal story. My parents came from Tokyo to San Francisco in the late 1950’s to promote knitting machines with JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) part of a project to rebuild businesses and the economy of Japan after the war.
Instead of returning to their home at the end of the few years’ assignment, their students convinced them to stay and open a knitting studio. They were technically “undocumented immigrants”, started their own business and kept renewing their annual temporary work visas. My younger brother and I were born here, and as American citizens attended schools in San Francisco and were active in the Japanese community with music, sports and youth groups. I never knew we were on the verge of being deported or that we were without health insurance while I was growing up. I have memories of the lawyer that came to our home, hired to help my parents stay in the US, and obtain their permanent Visa or “Alien card”. Shielded from the negative reality of my parents’ immigrant experience, I grew up happily involved with school, friends and community in Japantown.
Finding the AAP
With my parents not understanding the language or system, I remember needing to figure things out with my brother about school events, the process in applying to college, obtaining student loans, eventually attending medical school, and training in pediatrics. I first learned about the AAP when I attended the “Life after Residency” AAP California Chapter 1 program as a 3rd year resident. My pediatrician in San Francisco had contacted me to join him when I graduated, and I needed guidance This is when I met Myles Abbott – someone who helped me seek needed resources. I discovered my community in the AAP.
Many of us remember that phone call or conversation – “do you want to become involved with the AAP doing..” It is that moment that you were pulled into this group of likeminded colleagues. For me, it was local pediatricians, John Bolton (past California Chapter 1 President) who took me to lunch when I first started working and Gary Gin who called and asked if I would be “Member at Large” (MAL) for San Francisco.
As part of an AAP Chapter, much could be done outside of daily office work, impacting our local community and addressing statewide issues. From my role as MAL, I became progressively involved in leadership and ultimately, Northern California Chapter 1 President. As an officer of Chapter 1, I was part of the board of District IX representing all of California. I discovered how we could make a statewide impact for children advocating together.
Expanding my view of the AAP
As a member of District IX California, I learned how we interact with the National AAP organization. The Annual Leadership Forum brings all chapters across the United States submitting resolutions that bring important pediatric issues for the group to discuss and debate. I have seen our State and Federal Government Affairs representatives working closer together as policies impact all children locally and nationally. The annual Spring AAP Legislative Conference in Washington DC (this year virtually) is most energizing!
Advocacy is the process of supporting a cause…
Pediatricians united across California can better children’s health and wellbeing especially in the midst of this COVID19 pandemic. Times are challenging but opportunities appeared!
My priorities are:
- Helping children thrive physically and mentally, keeping them safely in schools, participating in sports and activities.
- Promoting science based best practices including immunizations and care of children with special needs.
- The mental and behavioral health needs are great, access to services and resources need to be improved.
- Insuring support for the practice of pediatrics. Along with CMA, working to extend Prop 56 funding, protect MICRA, address Medi-Cal payment and telemedicine. Physician wellness is crucial.
- Addressing health equity and social justice. Speaking for better living conditions, addressing food insecurity and environmental justice impacting poverty. Overcoming violence. Speaking against racism and maltreatment of immigrant families and for the vulnerable population.
This is a big agenda; we must strategize use of resources. Volunteer pediatricians contribute greatly but are also juggling work and home. Many goals are achievable if we work together across counties and regions including general and specialty pediatricians in various practice settings. National AAP offers some resources. Collaborations are essential as we strengthen our work with CMA, other medical groups and child advocates. Recent opportunities arose to work with the Governor’s office, Health and Human Services, Department of Public Health and legislators.
An important partnership is with the Residency Collaborative (all 13 California programs) to mentor residents in advocacy to connect with the AAP early in their careers. Harnessing their enthusiasm and keeping them engaged is key to keeping our organization vibrant.
Our collective voices and efforts can make a difference in the lives of the children and families that we serve.
Elected as District IX representative to the National Nominating Committee (NNC) gave me an opportunity to think about how leadership can shape our organization. We need to continue to promote diversity of our leaders and how to bring ourselves forward. I was fortunate to meet, work and befriend many thoughtful and passionate members throughout the country.
AAP News communicates to all members and is a valued way to share information. I am grateful for my chance to contribute on the Advisory Board and for Anne Hegland, the AAP chief editor and her staff. The publication strives to meet the new needs of our evolving membership – in print, electronically, and on social media.
These are my life experiences and my path with the AAP. I bring these perspectives and now serve as your District Chair leading California and on the National Board. I hope to continue my journey.
Yasuko Fukuda, MD FAAP
San Francisco, California