“When we enjoy our differences, our lives become richer.”

July 12, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, physical abilities and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission.

Kay Choi, a pharmacist at Edward Hospital, grew up in Korea, where she grew accustomed to a lack of cultural diversity.

It wasn’t until college, Chonnam National University, College of Pharmacy, that she met the first person she ever talked to who wasn’t Korean.

She got married and moved to the United States 20 years ago and has been enamored with diversity and world cultures ever since.

“When I came to the U.S. there were so many different people in one country, I was amazed,” Choi says.  “The first time I talked to someone who wasn’t Korean, like really talked to someone, I was amazed. I was like, oh my gosh I can communicate, I can use my English to have a real conversation.

“That’s why I love America. I love this freedom and everyone can live together. I can call this new country my home.”

She earned her Pharm. D in the U.S., had three children and tried to find ways to foster her love of art. She worked on illustrations for a children’s book while her kids grew.

Once her children were in college, one of her sons bought her a camera. It sparked a project idea.

“I took a lot of photos of my friends, my co-workers and I loved it,” Choi says. “I love people. I love their stories. I think that’s why I love portraits.”

She set a goal: photograph 100 people from 100 different countries by the end of 2021.

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“I want to celebrate the differences in people,” Choi says. “But this is also a way of showing how we are connected; we have something in common.”

Her work has led to personal growth as well, as Choi is able to learn about various cultures during conversations with her models.

“When I would see people from a different culture, I’d think, ‘Wow, they look different.’ I have a Nigerian friend and her front tooth has a gap. I said, ‘You need to go to the orthodontist and close the gap.’ She said, ‘What are you talking about? This is beauty in Nigeria!’ I thought that was interesting,” Choi says. “The bottom line is we are all people who want to be loved and want to love. The basics are the same.”

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The pharmacy department at Edward Hospital is like a global microcosm, where employees represent a variety of world cultures.

“We always have fun, we have different food. I love our department. We’re from different countries, but we get along,” Choi says. “Inside our department, they are not afraid of my ethnicity. Even though I speak broken English, they’re like, ‘It’s OK my mom speaks like that.’”

With a long list of countries to go, Choi is committed to her portrait project and is still searching for models. She’s interested in shooting portraits of anyone who’s willing to participate and she posts the photos on her Facebook page.

“The world is a beautiful place filled with different colors, flavors and beliefs,” Choi says. “When we enjoy our differences, our lives become richer.”

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