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AAPI Heritage Month Spotlight: Karen Kwan, MD

In honor of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are proud to recognize and celebrate the AAPI individuals whose work helps to make LAMC a great place to work and receive care. Every week during AAPI Heritage Month, we will celebrate individuals who exemplify AAPI Excellence at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. Please take a moment to read the profiles below. Dr. Karen Kwan, thank you for sharing your story with us. We salute you and we celebrate your leadership and medical excellence.


Karen Kwan, MD

I was born in Los Angeles, California.  I went to UC Berkeley for my undergraduate studies and attended UC Davis for medical school.  I did my internal medicine residency and hematology/oncology fellowship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA. I have been here at LAMC since 2010, and I specialize in the care of patients with breast cancer.   My children get me up each morning, and I enjoy spending time with my family and supporting my children with all their activities and interests.  AAPI Heritage month is an opportunity to honor our past and our future.  The opportunities we have now are due to the contributions and struggles of prior generations.  I am a child of immigrant parents, and the opportunities I have now are directly related to their sacrifice and the barriers they overcame.  It’s important to remember our history as we move forward as a community to share our traditions and culture and celebrate our differences.

AAPI Heritage Month Spotlight: Maria Theresa Sagun, RN

In honor of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are proud to recognize and celebrate the AAPI individuals whose work helps to make LAMC a great place to work and receive care. Every week during AAPI Heritage Month, we will celebrate individuals who exemplify AAPI Excellence at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. Please take a moment to read the profiles below. Maria Theresa Sagun, thank you for sharing your story with us. We salute you and we celebrate your leadership and medical excellence.


Maria Theresa Sagun, RN

I was born in a small town of Manaoag in the Philippines. I graduated from the University of Sto Tomas in Manila, Philippines for my BSN and went to CalState LA for my MSN.

I love traveling to anyplace where the water is warm and learning about other cultures through food. I started as a new graduate nurse at LAMC January of 2000 and I have never left!

What gets me up each morning is knowing what I do may potentially make a difference in someone’s life and knowing that I am part of something bigger than myself motivate me.

Celebrating my heritage reminds me of who I am and where I came from. Keeping traditions and values held on by the generations before us,  help us understand who we are. AAPI heritage month gives us the opportunity to showcase our cultural and historical contributions to our communities.

For Women’s History Month, meet some of the phenomenal women at LAMC: Sarah Katel, MD

On behalf of the Women in Medicine committee, LAMC is thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to recognize the achievements and contributions women have made to our country throughout history.

This year’s theme, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” seems particularly fitting as we recognize the heroic efforts that our women physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, technicians and administrators have made throughout the pandemic.

We thank all of you for your dedication, hard work, perseverance, empathy and compassion, not just during the pandemic, but always. We are in awe of your resilience and your continued delivery of quality, heartfelt care. Our medical center and our patients thrive thanks to your efforts!

Jessica Gould, MD  -  Lisa M. Sanders, MD  -  Lisa Firestone, MD
Women in Medicine

We are proud to feature Sarah Katel, MD, as a Phenomenal Women in Medicine.


Sarah Katel, MD, FACOG, Assistant Chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology

I was born in Santa Fe, NM, and spent my childhood in Mexico City and Miami. After high school I headed north, to the suburbs of Boston, where I attended Brandeis University. I completed medical school at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. In 2006, after eight long and cold winters, I moved to the warmth of southern California and began my training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Los Angeles Medical Center. I completed my training in 2010 and this past July I celebrated my Quinceañera year in this department.

There is never a dull moment in Obstetrics and Gynecology. I am doing the work that I love. The breadth of the specialty, its pace, and its complexity keep me going. I really appreciate working in a group where I always have the help of colleagues in my specialty and other specialties to provide the best care for patients.

My great-grandmother graduated from medical school in St Petersburg, Russia in 1904. The framed photograph of her diploma in my office starts with: “The bearer of this, Amalia Eduardovna Kopp, daughter of a bourgeois of the Jewish faith, born on February 19, 1876…” This lead sentence is meaningful to me because of the significance of a Jewish woman becoming a physician in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Women’s History Month is a time to appreciate the struggles that women of her generation went through to become physicians, or even just to work outside the home. We absolutely have made strides forward since that time and there is still more work to do.

For Women’s History Month, meet some of the phenomenal women at LAMC: Malora Azbill

On behalf of the Women in Medicine committee, LAMC is thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to recognize the achievements and contributions women have made to our country throughout history.

This year’s theme, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” seems particularly fitting as we recognize the heroic efforts that our women physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, technicians and administrators have made throughout the pandemic.

We thank all of you for your dedication, hard work, perseverance, empathy and compassion, not just during the pandemic, but always. We are in awe of your resilience and your continued delivery of quality, heartfelt care. Our medical center and our patients thrive thanks to your efforts!

Jessica Gould, MD  -  Lisa M. Sanders, MD  -  Lisa Firestone, MD
Women in Medicine

We are proud to feature Malora Azbill as this week’s Phenomenal Women in Medicine.


Malora Azbill, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

I was born here at LAMC and grew up on the west side of LA in Westchester.  Just an aside, may be of interest, I come from a Kaiser family.   My mom, Julie Guerrero was the speech coordinator at Kaiser WLA for many years and her father, my grandfather moved the family from Indiana to Fontana when my mom was a baby to work at Kaiser Steel where my uncle also worked until the steel mill closed in the 1980’s.  I am a 3rd generation Kaiser Permanente employee.

I went for undergrad at USC and was a member of the rowing team during my 4 years there.  I took a few years off school to work as a university assistant rowing coach, first at the University of Miami and then at USC before going back to school at Cal State Long Beach for a master’s degree in physical therapy.

I have been at LAMC for 16 years this month.

What wakes me up in the morning is that I have things to do.  I have twin almost 7 year old daughters and a garden to tend.  I have people to help.  I feel lucky to have the knowledge and access through this job to help so many people.  It’s super gratifying and I feel it is my main purpose in this life.  I always tell patients “I’m happy to help” and it’s true.

During Women’s History Month, I’m grateful to those who fought to create a more equal footing for women in this country, something I’ve been able to take for granted as I’ve felt few limitations related to gender in my life.  But like any marginalized segment of the population, which we still are here in the US and worldwide, it’s important to highlight the accomplishments and innovations by women throughout history and lift up women in the present moment. It’s an honor to be recognized. 

For Women’s History Month, meet some of the phenomenal women at LAMC: Barbara Helliwell, RN, BHN, BSN, Director, Risk Management, Patient Safety, Workplace Safety

On behalf of the Women in Medicine committee, LAMC is thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to recognize the achievements and contributions women have made to our country throughout history.

This year’s theme, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” seems particularly fitting as we recognize the heroic efforts that our women physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, technicians and administrators have made throughout the pandemic.

We thank all of you for your dedication, hard work, perseverance, empathy and compassion, not just during the pandemic, but always. We are in awe of your resilience and your continued delivery of quality, heartfelt care. Our medical center and our patients thrive thanks to your efforts!

Jessica Gould, MD  -  Lisa M. Sanders, MD  -  Lisa Firestone, MD
Women in Medicine

We are proud to feature Barbara Helliwell, RN as this week’s Phenomenal Women in Medicine. Please be on the lookout for these weekly profiles during the month of March.


Barbara Helliwell, RN, BHN, BSN, Director, Risk Management, Patient Safety, Workplace Safety

I was born in Horace Harding Hospital in Brooklyn, New York and was a proud New Yorker until my family moved to Los Angeles in 1972.

I became an LVN in 1979 and graduated from College of the Canyons, in Valencia California as an RN in 1983. I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from University of Phoenix in 2004. I have worked as a staff RN in Labor & Delivery, Newborn Nursery, Postpartum, and Neonatal Intensive Care. I held the position of Nurse Manager in a level-3 NICU in Van Nuys, California, and was the Clinical Educator for Maternal Child Health until I assumed responsibility for Regulatory Affairs at that facility. In addition, I was a Regional Trainer for the American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) for over 10 years, and was honored to receive an Outstanding Service Award for having taught over 200 classes. I was also a Regional Trainer for the American Heart Association Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) for 5 years and an American Heart Association Associate Faculty member. I worked as a Legal Nurse Consultant for the law firm of Girardi & Keese, working on multiple litigant lawsuits including the “Erin Brockovich” case during my time there prior to coming to LAMC.

I started at LAMC in July 2005 as the Accreditation & Licensing Manager. I became the Director of AR&L in 2006 and assumed responsibility for AR&L and Risk Management in 2008. In 2012, I became responsible for Risk Management and Patient Safety and in 2019 I added Workplace Safety to my responsibilities.

I love what I do. I believe in Kaiser Permanente’s mission, and I get true satisfaction knowing that I am helping to make KP the safest place to give and receive care. I love my family and enjoy spending time with them and my husband of 34 years, when I am not working.

I am so proud to have played a part as a woman in healthcare for the past 43 years. In each position that I have held I have felt empowered to grow and achieve and I have enjoyed collaborating with many other talented, intelligent, amazing women along the way. Women’s History Month inspires me with the possibility and promise that women can and do achieve great things both individually and together. I am honored to have been a small part of a greater whole and I wish to pass the torch to the new women leaders who will follow.