Women’s History Month: Discovering the Ikigai that fuels the journey
Perseverance. Family. Culture. Commitment. Growth. Medicine. Relationships. These are the factors that have influenced Regional Medical Director Dr. Kim Yu’s perspective on Women’s History Month.
Hers is a story that began on another continent, in her mother’s small dressmaker shop.
“She was asked to be a fashion designer in Paris, but she said no and instead followed her husband to England,” says Dr. Yu about her mother, Sok Cheng, pictured here in 1948. “It was there that she became ill and eventually required a kidney transplant. Because of that, I basically grew up in a hospital, seeing my mother cared for by countless physicians and nurses, and that was what led me to pursue a career in medicine. I saw how they cared for and saved her life. I’m the only medical doctor in our family, and in Asian culture, that’s a significant achievement.”
Yet it is only one of Dr. Yu’s many achievements. The creator and co-founder of Physician Moms in Family Medicine, current President of the Orange County Chapter of the California Academy of Family Physicians, and a former independent private practice owner, Dr. Yu has spent her career developing relationships with patients and physician peers, all with the goal of driving equality and equity in healthcare for all.
Today, Dr. Yu, pictured here, second from left, with fellow Aledade leaders Dr. Lelin Chao, Dr. Sarah Mullins and Mary Mullen, uses her role as Aledade Regional Medical Director to work collaboratively with healthcare professional associations across the country to support and advocate for primary care physicians and to promote the importance of value-based care in helping those physicians retain their independence.
“As a former solo practice owner, I loved working directly with and caring for patients,” she recalls. “Closing my practice after ten years in practice was truly heartbreaking. I had to say goodbye to my patients and those relationships I’d spent so many years building. I do not want any other doctors to have to experience that. Had I had a partner like Aledade at that time, I really believe I would still have my practice and be caring for them to this day. We need to ensure that primary care stays strong and viable, to continue to care for all our communities.”
Her experience as an independent physician, coupled with her wealth of experience in health equity, quality and her passion for primary care, are what led her to Aledade.
“My dear friend, Dr. Kisha Davis, whom I’d known since the 2000s through our work as physician leaders in the American Academy of Family Physicians, is who ultimately brought me to Aledade,” says Dr. Yu. “We’d done a lot of advocacy work and lectures together, and she told me about Aledade and what they were doing to transform healthcare for both patients and physicians, and that piqued my interest. I wanted to be part of that transformation and to have a broader impact on population health and primary care.”
Dr. Yu’s decision led her not only to a company that shares her dedication to protecting and supporting primary care physicians, it also led her to a company that shared her passion for advancing diversity and inclusion for all.
As Chair for the World Organization of Family Doctor’s (WONCA) Special Interest Group in Health Equity, Dr. Yu explains that equity is more than just a word, it’s an action. “It’s about ensuring that all voices, voices like mine and others, are heard.”
“There’s a quote from Liz Fosslien, that says, ‘Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.’ That really encapsulates Aledade,” she continues. “At Aledade, it’s simply built into our culture; we know that together, we can achieve more. It’s one of our core values, and we are always moving forward and striving for diversity, equality and inclusion.”
For Dr. Yu, as a woman and as a physician, that forward motion is critically important. To find and sustain that forward motion, she says, two key factors are crucial: meaningful relationships and a clear Ikigai.
“You must find your Ikigai, which is a Japanese concept that means ‘your reason for being, the reason why you get out of bed in the morning.’ Find that intersection between what you’re good at, what the world needs, what brings you joy, what you can be paid for, and determine what you want to do,” says Dr. Yu. “And find mentors who will travel with you on your journey. Build a network of forever friends who you can rely on. As you move forward in life, you realize what is truly important, and how those relationships are a real blessing.”