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In memory of Jan Ko Fisher

In memory of Jan Ko Fisher

February 20, 2019

Hello, my name is John Foz. I, and some of my other board members attending here today served with Jan on the board of International Community Health Services.

Teresita Batayola, ICHS president and CEO, is unfortunately unable to attend today due to previous travel commitments. But she shared on The Seattle Times obit page these words, which I would like to read: “Jan was a stalwart in nurturing and supporting ICHS for over 40 years. She was always kind and deeply cheered us in caring for our community, especially those who need us most — low income, immigrants and refugees from all cultures and backgrounds. She filled different roles on the board wherever she was needed. She was nationally honored for her service and last year, ICHS honored her with a sapphire service award. She enjoyed staffs and was proud of being a board member. She was also proud of her family, celebrating milestones with us over the years and especially when she started having grandkids. Jan left her stamp on ICHS and our community through her dedication. We’re forever grateful.”

Jan, as you may know, was one of the founding volunteers of ICHS. She was the longest serving board member in ICHS’ history, filling that role since 1975, or 43 years.

Jan graduated from U-Dub in 1971 with a medical technologist degree. She had worked as clinical laboratory scientist at Seattle Children’s Hospital for many years, starting in 2001.

Jan was interviewed in 2008 for a 35th anniversary documentary project for ICHS. She recalled the early years when the clinic was an all-volunteer operation on North Beacon Hill, serving patients out of a donated medical office. She was responsible for opening the clinic in the evening. She got the keys from her parents, Jimmy and Pauline, who lived across the street. “It wasn’t like swarms of patients coming to our doors,” she recalled, “but we offered rides from the International District. We offered free transportation. It was targeted toward the elderly in the hotels.”

In a later interview, Jan said she was inspired by the ICHS mission of service to the community and providing quality affordable care to underserved populations. She said, “I can’t believe how much ICHS has grown from that small free weekly clinic on Beacon Hill. It’s given me great satisfaction to be part of this."

Janyce Ko Fisher | ICHS co-founder and longest serving board member

With much pride, I’ve watched this health clinic grow from a small storefront space into a multi-clinic agency. I’ve been here like a proud parent through all the growing pains and triumphs.

Janyce Ko Fisher | ICHS co-founder and longest serving board member

In 2011, she received the Ethel Bond Memorial Consumer Award from the National Association of Community Health Centers.

In 2018, Jan was honored at ICHS’ 45th anniversary Bloom Gala with a Sapphire Award, recognizing her extraordinary leadership.

And, full disclosure, my wife Elaine is Jan’s first cousin, their fathers were brothers. So I knew Jan from family gatherings, especially during summer barbeques at Uncle Daniel and Aunt Shirley’s house in Seward Park.

My first association with ICHS was in 1979 when it operated out of a little storefront on Maynard Street next door to the historic Kokusai theater, now long gone. I had returned from my first summer season of processing salmon in Alaska and contracted strep throat. The clinic looked to be around 400 square feet back then, and there was one nurse, from what I could tell. A prescription of antibiotics and a minimal payment and I was all good.

Fast forward many years – my wife was asked to join the board of the clinic, and saying she was too busy she told Teresita Batayola to ask me. That was about 10 years ago, and I did indeed join.

We have a new board member buddy system, and Jan was assigned (or likely volunteered) to be my senior board buddy.

I served close to a decade with Jan on the board development committee:

I remember that, after Jan had suffered a stroke and was in rehabilitation, she phone-conferenced into the committee meetings. More often than not, it was Jan’s keen eye that caught something that needed attention, or that we had missed. To me, that was a testimony to the attention to detail Jan brought to the table, and her utmost care.

Jan’s 40 plus years of board leadership has helped steer us to a new era for ICHS.

There still exists increased demand for ICHS services.

ICHS will continue to target the limited English proficient, Asian/Pacific Islander, and refugee/immigrant populations, which is anticipated to grow.

ICHS now has clinics not only in Chinatown/ID, but Holly Park, Bellevue, Seattle World School, and a mobile dental van. In 2014, ICHS opened a 40,000 sq. ft. medical and dental clinic in Shoreline – Jan was co-chair of the fundraising steering committee. Last January we announced a $20 million capital campaign to create a 25,000-square-foot facility serving frail seniors over the age of 55. AiPACE, or Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a joint non-profit venture of ICHS and Kin On. The PACE program is a nationally-recognized model of care that enables low-income, nursing-home eligible adults to live independently at home or in the community.

The facility will be built on the vacant north parking lot of Pacific Hospital on north Beacon Hill as part of a larger development that will include affordable housing and an early childhood center.

I mention this growth not to crow about it, but to demonstrate what Jan’s stewardship over the decades has helped flourish.

The last line of the “Practical Nurse Pledge,” a modern version based on the “Nightingale Pledge” could have been penned by Jan. It states:

“May my life be devoted to service and to the high ideals of the nursing profession.”

Mahatma Gandhi is attributed the statement “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Jan found herself, by way of her selfless service to others. Many patients may never know her name, or met Jan personally over the 40 plus years she served, and yet, knowing Jan she did not care if she remained anonymous.

Each of us here should be so lucky as to find something we can be passionate about, and be committed to, as Jan did.

Currently, ICHS is embarking on ways to commemorate her legacy within the institution.

Finally, I would like to thank the immediate family: Mark and the boys, for sacrificing private family time which allowed Jan to participate in the countless meetings, retreats, and out of town conferences.

Jan will be “always loved, never forgotten, forever missed.”


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