Dr. Sy, originally from the Philippines, grew up as the fifth of 12 children (six boys and six girls). Almost in the fashion of Yup’ik tradition, Dr. Grace is proudly named after her grandmother (with whom she shares the same birthday) and the matriarch of her family, “Lady” Donya Engracia, credited for starting her family’s restaurant chain, known as The Aristocrat in the Philippines.
Some things you may not know about Dr. Sy
She attended an all-Catholic girls school, and participated in the 1974 Southeast Asian Games as guard for the Philippine National Basketball association in high school.
She attended the University of East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical School in Manila in 1982.
It was a long journey and a considerable sacrifice for Grace and her family to practice medicine in the U.S. Because the U.S. has strict medical school requirements, she practically repeated her whole medical degree course after moving to the U.S. in 1988.
She fulfilled her Family Medicine residency in Norfolk, Virginia, at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
She received the Isabel Marmon Award for outstanding resident and served as Chief Resident on the 3rd year of her residency training.
After Grace finished school, her husband Greg also pursued medicine as a Physician Assistant. They have a daughter, Kristine, who holds a Masters in Certified Public Accounting (CPA) and is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Kentucky. Although Greg and Grace grew up in the same neighborhood only six blocks from each other, they didn’t meet until college.
Grace has had some fun and interesting adventures since moving to Bethel, including kayaking across the river and going out to deliver a baby on a medical emergency. You can read Grace’s own story about how and why she came to Bethel, her first year’s adventures, and what she’s learned since being here on our website at www.ykhc.org.
End-of-Life Care, Dr. Sy’s Passion
Grace is passionate about palliative (end-of-life) care. Grace has worked extensively with other nurses, providers and community members to improve ways for YK Delta families to prepare for the grieving and closure process that comes with the death of a loved one.
“My desire to help develop a Palliative Care and End of Life Care Program in our region was strengthened by the pain and helplessness that I felt when three deaths occurred out in the village that I found out about through RMT (radio medical traffic),” she said. “It was very painful for me to imagine what the family had to go through as they watched their loved one die.”
She has worked tirelessly, on weekends, even with home visits to meet and console families who have loved ones who are terminally ill. So far, Sy has established a community network to have an ‘on-call’ designated cell phone number which some providers share to “answer the call in the middle of the night” in the event a family is struggling with someone who chooses or wishes to die at home, and among family members.
Grace says a Palliative and Hospice Care program can be beneficial to the community and to families. “I dream of communities, family members and even our youth, to become peace and comfort providers to loved ones who may be dying. Once we normalize the mystery and fear of the dying process—so communities can honor and serve out the wishes of their elders at the moment they “cross into the woods”— an aspect of healing within families and communities will begin.”