Nam Kim, Hanul Family Alliance
Nam Kim is a health educator at Hanul Family Alliance and represents a new dimension of public health workers serving Asian immigrant populations. Young and well-educated, Nam was born in Korea and lived in the United States as an exchange student from 2005-2007. He came back in 2009 to enter graduate school at Case Western University in Cleveland, completing his studies there in 2011 with a Master’s in Social Work. It was during his graduate work at Case Western that Nam decided to work to improve the welfare of Korean immigrants in the United States. He moved to Chicago and found employment at Hanul, a large social service agency in Chicago that targets Korean-American immigrants and a partner of the Asian health Coalition.
Nam became interested in the interface between health and the community while serving as the primary caretaker of his grandfather who had been stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease. Nam cared for his grandfather in their home in Korea until his death. His mother is a breast cancer survivor, and Nam saw firsthand how these devastating diseases can overwhelm a family. Nam had considered pursuing studies to become a doctor, but decided that he wanted to work more closely with people and how they deal with disease at home and at the society level. In a culture that holds physicians and scientists in high esteem, his family at first did not support his decision to study social work over medicine. However, noting how happy and fulfilled Nam feels in his role, they are now pleased with his decision.
In his role at Hanul, Nam coordinates a number of health programs and. sees a significant amount of crossover of health needs among the different programs, and “enjoys trying to make the connections.” He educates clients from his diabetes and chronic disease self-management groups about viral hepatitis, and encourages them to attend screening events. Recognizing that a significant portion of the Korean immigrants receiving services at his agency are adults and seniors, Nam has made a particular effort to reach out to youth. He distributes health information at college fairs, and makes updated educational materials available on Hanul’s website and Facebook page.
Nam is skilled in the use of social media, and uses it to conduct health education outreach to Korean-American youth as well as engage them in community service. He writes in both Korean and English on the Facebook page, recognizing that many Korean-American youth can speak but not read or write Korean. He understands the various perspectives of each generation, and tries to incorporate these perspectives in his outreach strategy. He also feels his youth makes him open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, so important in dealing with social and community issues.
Nam also recognizes that in a culture where respect comes with increasing age, his youth can sometimes be a challenge. Older clients have told him “he hasn’t experienced what they have experienced.” Nam employs three strategies to gain the respect of the older community members. First, he educates himself as much as can on a health issue. He attends workshops and seminars, and researches information on the Internet. Second, he behaves professionally. He makes certain that he is always prepared for any workshops or activities he is leading. Finally, he is patient and respectful of his clients. He listens carefully, and responds to his clients with respect, reflective of the Korean culture.
Nam is passionate about two aspects of his work: helping people understand their disease and make healthy lifestyle changes, and creating connections to benefit his community. He loves seeing how people change when they receive the information and support they need. His one-on-one interactions with his clients as well as his group sessions are chances to “apply all the theory I studied in school, helping people where they live.” As his own cohort group would say, he is the “ultimate networker.”
The Asian Health Coalition staff have worked with Nam on several health promotion programs and we are proud to acknowledge his work as a community catalyst!