At the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, our program staff plays a major role in providing support and preventive health care services to our patients. Many are involved with creating and implementing effective educational and disease prevention programs, and work directly with patients to help them understand what they can do to keep themselves or their family healthy. In this series, you will meet our staff and see how they excel in their roles to meet the needs of our community.
“I choose to work with the Health Center because I want to improve the health and quality of life of the Chinese American community. When I was studying at Columbia University, I asked my professor which organization I can work with if I want to serve the Chinese American community. He said, ‘Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’.”
This is Yajie Zhu, the OB/GYN Department’s program coordinator who received her Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in Health Education from Columbia University. She started her journey with the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in 2013 as a health educator in the OB/GYN Department and quickly rose to be a senior health educator. As a breastfeeding mom herself, one of the health initiatives she is passionate about is educating new moms on the importance of breastfeeding. Despite its countless health benefits for both mother and baby, breastfeeding still presents numerous barriers for Asian Americans. There is misinformation about the benefits, difficulties with breastfeeding and pumping at work, and a lack of social support. Yajie became a certified lactation counselor and started the breastfeeding education program at the Health Center. She was on the forefront of counseling patients one-on-one and facilitating workshops to educate expecting parents and families about breastfeeding.
“First-time mothers usually don’t have confidence and knowledge and other mothers might’ve had challenges when they breastfed their first babies. What we do is empower mothers through education and social and emotional support. Breastfeeding support works because we provide tailored information and support at various stages of their journey, from OB visits during pregnancy to right after delivery in the hospital, and from 1 month postpartum to 6 months postpartum. It is very rewarding for us to see mothers and babies doing fine after overcoming bumps on the road, and enjoying the benefits and bonding experience of breastfeeding.”
Recently, one of Yajie’s major accomplishments is earning her credential as a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES), one of the highest levels of competence a health educator professional can achieve. Having an MCHES under her belt, Yajie is equipped with the tools and knowledge to identify the needs of the community, design and evaluate new health promotion and education programs, and support other health educators and staff at the Health Center.
“Before I became an MCHES,” says Yajie, “I was a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) for five years. The responsibility, competencies and continuing education required to be a CHES have really helped me work for community health education. It is also the reason why I decided to get an MCHES.”
Studying for the MCHES wasn’t simple, especially when she had to care for her 3-year-old boy. “During the weekdays, I studied at night after I put my child to bed. On weekends, I had to make sure that I have some quiet time to focus on studying at home or the public library. I am thankful for my husband; he was very supportive. I am so glad that I got the certification. Working with the Health Center has been the most rewarding experience of my career.”
At the Health Center, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of our supporting team of professionals. Outside clinical visits, staff like Yajie Zhu makes the coordination of care possible and help address the diverse health needs of our New York City community.
Written by Bonnie Tse
Bonnie Tse is the communications coordinator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science from Hunter College.