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Jean Sunwoo

Jean Sunwoo

Position: Care Manager

Organization: St. Jude Medical Center


What role does your nominee have in senior care and senior care issues?
Jean has been driven to provide help and support to the most vulnerable in the community from a young age. Jean grew up in Hawaii and early in her childhood noticed her ability to connect with others. While growing up, Jean worked through a disability that allowed her to empathize with the physical and emotional struggles people she found herself in contact with. Jean soon recognized the impact disability has on one’s life and others. Jean's realization that no one should walk through those experiences alone sent her on a life trajectory dedicated to serving the needs of the communities most vulnerable. Jean’s skill as a listener coupled with a heart to serve became quite useful as she pursued a degree in psychology from the University of Colorado and later, was truly put to work as she continued her education to gain a Masters of Theology and a Masters of Social Work. Early on in her career, Jean worked as a counselor mentoring at-risk youth in the inner city, Youth Pastor, and treatment facility. Jean’s belief that “everybody needs to have hope in something” ultimately led her to her current role as a Social Worker in the acute care setting at St. Jude Medical Center. In this role, Jean provides support to help her patients navigate their way back from life-altering events, overcome adversity, and strive to lead a life that allows the individual to thrive after a catastrophic event.

Why should this person be nominated
One of Jean’s strengths is her ability to collaborate and excel in a fast-paced, team oriented environment while providing the highest level of patient-centered care. Every day she works tirelessly to ensure her patients are supported and know they have her as an advocate in their corner. A story that comes to mind that exemplifies Jean’s dedication to her patients deals with a complex patient who did not believe there was much left worth fighting for in life. This patient had a diagnosis as an incomplete quadriplegic, and was very angry at the position they were in. Jean helped the patient redirect the anger to build a fire deep within the patient to fuel the fight towards recovery. With Jean’s support, this patient created goals—first to stand, then to walk, a feat that even the patient's health insurance medical director found astonishing. By the time of discharge, the patient was able to walk a significant distance. This miraculous and remarkable story epitomizes the powerful outcome of eliciting hope in those that may be temporarily hopeless. This is what makes Jean a true hero to those that she serves. She can connect with people in their darkest of places, whether it be due to illness or accident, and build rapport, trust, and a connection so strong that they leave St. Jude with hope and a positive outlook on the future in front of them. Remember, Jean believes that “everybody needs to have hope in something.” In her mind, it is this belief that drives people forward and ultimately builds resilience. It takes resilience to overcome the toughest adversity that life throws your way, such as a stroke or other major, traumatic events. And it takes a true hero, like Jean, to give those the hope they need to become resilient and forge ahead to accomplish all the amazing things that make life the most special gift of all.