Heesook Kim, a lived experience community activist, is the recipient of Hepatitis NSW’s prestigious 2022 Cheryl Burman Award. The Cheryl Burman Award is presented to an individual or team in NSW for outstanding work or achievements within the viral hepatitis sector.
Hepatitis NSW CEO Steven Drew said, “The Cheryl Burman Award this year recognises Heesook Kim for her substantial contribution to improving the quality of life of people living with viral hepatitis.”
Heesook Kim has shared her lifelong story of living with hepatitis B with the local Korean community and the people of New South Wales. In sharing her personal story in the face of potential stigma and discrimination – which is all too commonly associated with hepatitis B – Heesook has earned the greatest of respect of many people in the sector.
Mr Drew said, “In this she has become an inspiration for others living with hepatitis B and has contributed to supporting Korean people living with hepatitis B.”
Mr Drew said, “Heesook has been strongly motivated to reach people who can benefit from better understanding of this lifelong illness so that it can be managed or treated and ensure people can live a long, healthy life.
“In doing so, she has become a public face for a highly stigmatised illness, yet, put simply, she has changed people’s hearts and minds.”
“Every time she has spoken to raise awareness, she has taken the risk of negative reactions, attitudes, and judgment,” said Mr Drew. “Yet, her authenticity and bravery in taking the messages out to the community has meant that thousands of people are now better informed, have access to testing and treatment if required, and know where to find information in language about services in NSW for addressing hepatitis B.”
The barriers have been broken down by the urgency of her message to not delay regular monitoring for hepatitis B.
Mr Drew said, “The challenges of reaching people during COVID restrictions – those who are amongst ‘hard to reach’ communities due to language and cultural barriers – meant Hepatitis NSW had to work harder to overcome barriers.
“That is where Heesook’s generosity in sharing her story came in again, through making a video, in conversation with hepatologist and gastroenterologist Dr Alice Lee, to motivate people to get regular monitoring.”
The video now has over 44,500 views since being posted to YouTube 18 months ago, clearly meeting a need