Ong family Christmas photo

In Her Footsteps
Story 108

All five of Esther Ong’s children are following in her footsteps as medical professionals caring for their community.

When Esther Ong moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines and was seeking a nursing job, her brother gave her a tour of the Adventist Health hospital in Glendale. She knew almost right away – this was the place for her.

“When I had my tour, I felt the ambience,” Esther recalls. “I said, OK, I think I’ll be working at Glendale!”

Esther achieved her goal and started working there in 2003. Throughout her 19 years with Adventist Health, Esther has worked as a staff nurse, preceptor, relief charge nurse, and now critical care educator at White Memorial – and in the process, she started an unlikely family tradition. All five of her children work as medical professionals at Adventist Health.

Karen and Esther Ong working at vaccine clinic
Karen Ong, far left, and her mother, Esther Ong, far right, administering COVID-19 vaccines

“As soon as [my kids] reached high school, I enrolled them in the White Memorial Foundation as hospital volunteers,” Esther says. “The purpose of that was to keep them busy with activities in the summertime instead of being in the house playing with gadgets all day long, and in addition to that, for them to see the bigger picture of the healthcare system.”

Esther considers her children’s volunteer experiences as at least one factor in their decisions to become healthcare providers. “It’s like we’re following the saying that ‘The family that works together, stays together,’” she says with a laugh.

Karla – the second oldest of Esther’s children – was first in line. After working in nursing for three years at Glendale, she’s now a nurse practitioner at Adventist Health Bakersfield.

“As a nurse, you're the one that's most remembered by the patient,” Karla says. “I've been a patient myself, so I kind of know how it is on the other end of things, and I think that drives you to become better for your patients.”

Ong family at birthday party
The Ong family

Karla adds that her mother has involved her family in medical mission trips throughout their life, which have also shaped their goals as a family and as individuals. “I think that did influence a lot of our decisions, going into healthcare and becoming the professionals that we are,” she says.

The eldest Ong sibling, Karen, is also a nurse by training and now serves as Employee Health Manager at Adventist Health White Memorial. She sees her professional mission as a family mission, as well. “Our mission is to get people better,” Karen says, “especially those who really are in need.”  

She says compassion, understanding, and patience were words and values that she grew up with. “Not everybody is as lucky as we are,” she says. “I’m grateful to my mom for guiding us with the principles that she has taught us since we were small.”