On December 18, 2003, Doktor Ko Outreach Foundation, Inc. (which was renamed Asian Health Outreach Foundation (“AHOF”) in December 14, 2005) was incorporated by Drs. Emmanuel Barias and Ruperto Blanco, Jr., both family physicians, with the mission of promoting preventive health care consciousness and the general health well being in medically underserved communities. In its early years, it organized fundraising activities to support charitable initiatives in the Philippines, including the Doktor Ko Program, which granted financial support for physicians to encourage them to maintain medical practices in underserved rural communities in the Philippines. As it continued to pursue its mission, it gradually shifted its focus to healthcare issues in West Michigan with the launching of its patient navigation system. The patient navigation system is staffed by volunteers who, with their Asian language capabilities (e.g., Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Burmese, etc.) and cultural fluency, offered Asian-Americans with information and guidance regarding the complex healthcare system—as a way of increasing access to healthcare services. Given limited resources, the patient navigation system has been exploring various ways to collaborate with various organizations in order to further the objective of addressing healthcare issues faced by the Asian American community in West Michigan.
On January 5, 2006, the Asian Professionals Organization (“APO”) was incorporated by Tai Lai, Susan Im, Mary Smit and Amy Ahn, all professionals, for the purpose of creating opportunities for networking and connecting Asian professionals and the broader community for economic, social and intellectual enrichment. In pursuit of its mission, APO has organized various networking events that served as venue for interaction and collaboration among members of the Asian American professional community. In the past few years, APO began to focus on efforts to promote education and professional development, which led to the creation of a scholarship program that was launched two years ago.
By 2009, AHOF and APO had interlocking directors, and have had several opportunities to mutually support each other’s causes and initiatives. In their close interaction and cooperation, the leaders of the two organizations started discussing the possibility of merging the two organizations to avoid duplication of efforts and initiatives in the community, pool resources and take advantage of the synergies between the two organizations – in order to pursue mutual objectives. By 2010, in light of developments in the Asian community in West Michigan, leaders of AHOF and APO had come to the realization that there is a need for greater collaboration in a community traditionally organized according to ethnic background. Thus, as of May12, 2011, the merger between AHOF and APO was approved by the respective boards of directors of the two organizations. The merger took effect as of May 19, 2011.
The first board of directors of WMAAA is composed of representatives of APO and AHOF, namely: Ruperto D. Blanco, Jr., George Aquino, Cora Hanselman of the AHOF Board of Directors; Joanne Hawk, David Long and Bing Goei of the APO Board of Directors; and Minney D. Morey, and Albert Y. Yu Chang, who were concurrent members of the two boards. The following are the WMAAA officers: Albert Y. Yu Chang, Chair; Joanne Hawk and Bing Goie, Co-Presidents; Cora Hanselman, Treasurer; and David Long, Secretary. Minerva (Minney) D. Morey serves as the executive director and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors