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Heart At Work: Zoua Yang helps connect cultures

May 19, 2021 | Heart At Work

Zoua Yang, in a CVS Pharmacy location.

Zoua Yang is a Pharmacy Manager and COVID Clinic Depot Leader in Wausau, Wisconsin. She is also a member of the robust Hmong community.

“Medical professionals who aren’t familiar with Hmong people don’t understand why the entire family needs to consult on a procedure,” Zoua says. “Many Hmong follow shamanistic traditions, too, which can contradict typical medical practice.”

Culturally, COVID-19 has been especially challenging. “We didn’t want to offend anyone by wearing a mask to suggest we had to protect ourselves from them,” she explains. “We also didn’t want to visit our elders due to higher mortality rates, which is hard for a community that relies on elders for guidance.”

Zoua has been instrumental in the vaccination efforts against COVID-19, directing resources to the Hmong people and providing ease of access to vaccinations. In fact, her grandparents Chue Lao Yang and Chi Yang, were her patients.

Zoua gave COVID-19 vaccinations to her grandparents Chue Lao and Chi Yang.
Zoua gave COVID-19 vaccinations to her grandparents Chue Lao and Chi Yang.

Being vaccinated was a welcome relief for them, although COVID-19 is only one of many hardships they have faced. “Grandpa fought in the Vietnam war alongside the U.S.,” says Zoua. “America had promised aid for the Hmong people if they fought.”

That promise brought the Yangs, and so many other Hmong families, to seek a new life here – one that could provide safety and opportunity. “In Laos, we welcomed American soldiers and their families into our homes,” says Grandpa Chue Lao. “We assumed that Americans would do the same for us.”

Instead, the Yangs could hardly walk down the street without having racial slurs shouted or items thrown at them. “Our mailbox was destroyed over and over,” remembers Grandma Chi. These attitudes persisted throughout Zoua’s childhood. “Other students would tell me to go back to my country,” she says.

But the Yangs persisted, too. Zoua’s grandparents found work at a meat cutting company, her father became the first Hmong police officer in the country, and Zoua became a licensed pharmacist, a job she loves.

Racism has not diminished Zoua’s commitment as a pharmacist to help others, especially during the dire times of the pandemic. “The Wausau community has helped the Hmong people thrive and I am privileged to be in a position where I can provide health care to all people, including the Hmong community, and to continue to help break down cultural barriers.”

Thank you, Zoua, for bringing your heart to work to build a safer, healthier community in Wisconsin.

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