Commissioned Corps E-Bulletin
Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - May 2010
The Office of Commissioned Corps Force Management (OCCFM) and the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations (OCCO), in collaboration with the Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the Office of Minority Health Resource Center (OMHRC) sponsored the 2nd Annual Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration at the Tower Building in Rockville, MD. The Asian Pacific Officers Advisory Committee (APOAC) and the Scientist Professional Advisory Committee supported the celebration.

The event, held on 11 May, featured RADM Kenneth Moritsugu, USPHS (Ret.), as keynote speaker. A career officer in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps), RADM Moritsugu served as Acting Surgeon General from 2006 until his retirement in 2007. He was born and raised in Hawaii, and is Board Certified in preventive medicine and holds fellowships in the American College of Preventive Medicine, the Royal Society of Health, and the Royal Society of Medicine. After his retirement from the Corps, he joined the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute where he currently serves as the Chairman of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute.

RADM Moritsugu’s eloquent speech stressed the importance of cultural competency for health care professionals. He challenged the audience to embrace other cultures and to discover the wealth of diversity in our own families. He also encouraged the audience not to lose sight of the reason for celebrating various cultures. He stated, “We should be celebrating them, not emphasizing our differences, but rather noting how these differences contribute to diversity and to richness in our society, the sum total of our ethnic and cultural diversity in America.”

RADM Moritsugu expressed that diversity in the workplace has enormous power to help society and organizations achieve their mission by:
  • providing a true “value-added” component to management and its mission, as well as to staff and the work environment;
  • enhancing an organization’s perspective on issues, through its ability to provide more than a single perspective; and,
  • providing the rich pool of life experiences, cultures, knowledge, skills, attitudes, that is the invaluable aggregate of individuals, while at the same time acknowledging the uniqueness of each person.
In closing, he motivated the audience to celebrate the value of contributions made by Asians and Pacific Islanders to our diversity as a Nation. He encouraged the audience to celebrate the seamless integration of the power of one interwoven into our strength and our future, stating:

“Interwoven, white and black and yellow and brown and red, and all colors in between; interwoven, by many hands, and by many cultures, into our society as we know, appreciate and enjoy today: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberties and justice for all.”

RADM David Rutstein, Acting Deputy Surgeon General, provided remarks during the program. He spoke about his experiences as a medical officer in Micronesia where he served during 13 years of his career in the Corps. RADM Denise Canton, Director of OCCFM, and CAPT Gregory Stevens, Acting Director of OCCO, provided opening remarks and welcomed everyone to this important celebration.

The audience was delighted by the spectacular performance of the Indian Classical Odissi Dance NRITYALAYA. Three professionally trained dancers -- Neeraja Balachander, Pallavi Das, and Anjana Mohanty -- fascinated the audience with their performance of two classical pieces. Dr. Chitra Krishnamurti, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health coordinated the dancers participation.

The event concluded with a potluck luncheon featuring a wide array of dishes from Asian and Pacific regions. CDR Paul Wong, OCCFM, and Ms. Cyndia Harroway, OCCO, coordinated the luncheon, which included more than 20 different dishes. The event provided learning and sharing opportunities for civilians and Corps officers alike.

About Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands); Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia); and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).

Like most commemorative months, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the President to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on 7 May 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on 10 May1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.


Corps officers pictured (left to right): RADM Denise Canton, Director of the Office of Commissioned Corps Force Management; RADM Kenneth Moritsugu, USPHS (Ret.); RADM David Rutstein, Acting Deputy Surgeon General; and CAPT Gregory Stevens, Acting Director of the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations. A certificate of appreciation was presented to the ODISSI dancers (left to right): Neeraja Balachander, Pallavi Das, and Anjana Mohanty.
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HHS, Office of Public Health and Science
Office of Commissioned Corps Force Management
Tower Building
1101 Wootton Parkway, Plaza Level Suite 100
Rockville, MD 20852