Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

During May, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, “our Nation celebrates the diversity of cultures, breadth of achievement, and remarkable contributions of these communities,” as noted by President Biden in a recent presidential proclamation on the celebration. Originally signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, Congress expanded the observance to the full month of May in 1992. May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, as well as the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The work for the railroad was largely done by Chinese immigrants, serving as the backbone of American transportation for nearly a century. You can read more about the commemoration on the website for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and be sure to read President Biden’s full proclamation here.

While this month celebrates people from a wide variety of nations, such as India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Guam, and Samoa, one disease affecting eye health that has a higher prevalence among this entire population is Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome (VKH). The commemoration provides an opportunity to heighten awareness of the condition and the importance of early identification. An autoimmune disease, VKH can impact many parts of the body, including the skin, ears, meninges (tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord), as well as the eyes. It develops over the course of years, primarily causing damage to the retina, which can lead to retinal detachment. Fortunately, many individuals show improvement with treatment, and it can be caught early with regular visits to an eye doctor. To learn more about VKH, check out this entry on VKH on the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeWiki.