Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Aono.
Hi Christopher, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I became a frontline worker and healthcare educator by accident. I never imagined in a million years that I would work in healthcare, let alone become a teacher. Medical providers expect new graduates to have basic understanding of the foundations within their scope of practice. Many future frontline workers rely on me. I love that I can make an impact in my field of healthcare, education, and public health.
My life wasn’t easy. I was such a mess in my twenties. I was couch surfing and doing some really crazy things like drugs just trying to survive the chaos. My lowest point was when I was at a random stranger’s house doing drugs on the bathroom floor. I was a sad mess. I lived with a really good friend who at the time was working as a sex worker. She literally helped me go to school. I owe her so much because she pushed me to study Medical Assisting. I managed to graduate and I found a job working as a Clinical Medical Assistant. It didn’t pay much, but I had a steady check.
I met a wonderful man and he changed my life. We got married in 2014. My spouse pushed me to go back to school and eventually I earned my undergraduate and graduate degree in Public Health. I’m actually a “pandemic” graduate – class of 2020 from CalState LA. My cohort was the first-ever piloted MPH Program with the university. I managed to juggle working several jobs as a full time as a Programs Manager in HIV, STD/STI Prevention, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health, teaching high school students, and college students. At the same time doing an internship, fellowship and serving as a national advisory board member for HIV/AIDS within the API community. I was working day and night. I even had the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill to talk with politicians such as Vice President Kamala Harris, Senators Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jimmy Gomez, and Dianne Feinstein about supporting DACA for immigration. I still don’t understand how I managed to do everything.
A month before completing my graduate degree is when the Pandemic was announced. Everything went into a complete stop and my life changed forever. I received a phone call that I needed to make an emergency flight to help my mother in Texas because she contracted Coronavirus during the first wave. She ended up in the hospital for nearly three months. The doctors told us she had a 50% chance of survival. This was the most stressful time of my life. I booked a flight straight to Texas and ended up getting Coronavirus right after. I was sick for two months and I wasn’t even allowed to see the doctors in person. I was sent home and told to rest. On my birthday July 28, I finally tested Negative. However, I ended up being diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and I remember experiencing tunnel vision, loss of hand coordination, paralysis to the left side of my face. I still have lingering health effects like shortness of breath.
Currently, I am teaching online while holding my face up. I also manage to volunteer in vaccine outreach with the county. I help people with resume building and job outreach. My face has healed about 80% and I am finally able to feel somewhat normal again. At the end of 2020, I finally received a call that my mother was being discharged from the hospital and placed in a rehab facility because she miraculously recovered. Thank god she survived, but she requires an oxygen machine and a lot of help still. When I picked her up she was incontinent and needed ambulatory assistance and round-the-clock monitoring. I remember I rented a van and picked her up in Texas and drove her 24 hours nonstop back to Los Angeles with 17 oxygen tanks in the backseat. No one really knows my story. I have managed to teach hundreds of medical assistants, phlebotomists, and other healthcare workers while taking care of my mother.
One thing I learned being in this situation is to never give up. I love helping people and I do my best to try to provide resources and help to everyone. I am really good at connecting and navigating people to resources. I truly believe my story can relate to someone and if they feel they are at their lowest point, they should know that they will get through it. I know it sounds corny saying, “If I can do it, so can you.” But the truth is, I saw an opportunity and now I feel that I should pay it forward. We have to power to create our destiny. Many people have come into my life and helped me in so many ways. They left a huge impact in my life and I want to pay it forward to all the folks out there. They saw potential in myself when I didn’t.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Not at all. I had to learn to step back and prioritize what was most important to me. I had to take care of my health and mental health.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a frontline worker and healthcare educator. I work as an educator for several community colleges and private institutions training them to become frontline workers in the health industry. I am also a community organizer in HIV, STD/STI Prevention, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health. I do outreach and connect people to resources in our community. I helped develop a resource matrix for Adventist White Memorial Hospital where patients are connected to community resources such as food pantries, shelters, and showers to name a few. I participate in a national community advisory board called NMAC where we educate community members on HIV prevention and connect folks to resources nationally.
Who else deserves credit in your story?
CSULA Faculty – Dr Melanie Sabado-Liwag, Dr. Kimberly Kisler-Pisca, Dr. Beth Hoffman, Wai Ping “Athena” Foong, Dr. Portia Jackson-Preston.
All the Non-Profit Organizations and grass-root organizers in Los Angeles who provide resources to LGBTQIA+: Tranlatina Coalition, Transwellness Center, LGBT Center, APLA, and APAIT and The Wall Las Memorias.
Spouse – Tetsuji Aono
Anphon Medical – Rebekah Jennings, President CEO
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
White Memorial Hospital: Cesar Alvanderiz, Jaynie Boren
Registered Nurses: Annalissa Cruz RN BSN, Angelica Poblete RN BSN, Leilani Fang FNP.
Mentors, cheerleaders and team members: Melisa Meza MPH, Daisy Valvidia BsPH, Cinthia Alvarez BsPH, Michelle Wong LVN MPH, Amel Kebir MPH, David Flores MPH, and the rest of my MPH Family.
- Email: email@example.com