Diana Ming Chan

1929 – 2008

Innovative voice for multigenerational populations

For over 46 years, Diana Ming Chan was a policy advocate, social worker mentor, instructor, director, clinical practitioner, consultant, staff trainer, lecturer and a parent educator for children, youth, families and adults and for social workers.

Ming Chan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of California at Berkeley and a Masters of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. Fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, she pioneered a culturally-relevant application of social work principles to the San Francisco area Asian population.

During the War on Poverty in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, Ming Chan worked with a multidisciplinary team of individuals who successfully secured a designation as a “target” community for the Chinatown/North Beach districts of San Francisco. The team subsequently obtained funds to establish a broad range of agencies that did not previously exist in the area. These agencies included Self-Help for the Elderly, Chinese Newcomers Service Center, Chinatown Child Development Center, and Northeast Mental Health Services.

In 1970, with the advent of bilingual education, Ming Chan conducted workshops for teachers of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to help enhance their knowledge and understanding of Asian-American culture. The systematic reduction in the number of social workers in the SFUSD during the late 1970s through the 1980s and 1990s created a huge backlog of cases which could not all be served in private agencies and public mental health centers. With the help of Jewish Family and Children’s services, Ming Chan obtained funding to set up a school partnership program in the early part of 1989. She provided mental health consultation to the staff at three schools and eventually proved her theory that troubled children could be greatly helped if their teachers received regular consultation from social workers.

Throughout her career, Ming Chan sought to help immigrants, their American-born children, social workers and teachers through a holistic approach. She felt that by first developing a way to make social work relevant and accessible, and then by educating all parties, better outcomes would occur over time.

Even after her retirement, Ming Chan continued to volunteer in the community and was a frequent guest speaker on radio broadcasts that addressed matters pertaining to family dynamics and mental health. Her efforts in the field of social work during her long and illustrious career benefited many, and she was an innovative voice for needy, disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations.

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