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Local pediatrician receives Woman of the Year Award

Assemblyman Adam Gray presents the Woman of the Year Award to Dr. Sima Asadi.
Assemblyman Adam Gray presents the Woman of the Year Award to Dr. Sima Asadi.

Dr. Sima Asadi of Merced received the California Woman of the Year Award for State Assembly District 21 during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, along with Merced County Supervisor Josh Pedrozo and Merced Mayor Matthew Serratto, showed up to honor the woman who helped thousands of residents with free vaccination clinics during some of the toughest times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You could describe Sima Asadi as a champion for children,” said Gray in making the announcement. “But that doesn’t even come close to telling the story of what Dr. Asadi has meant to this community. She’s been an advocate, a healer and a humanitarian.”

A leading pediatrician in the Merced community for the past 20 years, Dr. Asadi has been instrumental in procuring and administering covid tests, as well as administering vaccinations. She has personally given more than 15,000 vaccinations to first-responders, senior citizens, school staff and administration, city and county employees, children and homeless residents of Merced County.

Dr. Asadi chairs the Pediatric Department at Merced Medical Center among other duties. As the pandemic emerged, she was the first doctor to begin testing for COVID-19 in Merced County – often administering tests to medical personnel from the trunk of her car.

She was also the first to begin vaccinations, attracting a cadre of volunteer as the effort grew.

“That first day, a friend who is a nursing instructor at Merced College, called and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘I’m vaccinating now,’” Asadi said. “So she goes home, grabs her stethoscope and the next thing I know, I’ve got two volunteers helping. That turns into 10, then 30. I had obstetricians, nurses then CEOs – that’s when Adam came on.”

Recognizing the importance of the region’s many essential workers in the food industry, Assemblyman Gray swung into action.

“We could see what Dr. Asadi was accomplishing, working with volunteers and through sheer willpower. We wanted to help,” he said.

Hoping to set up a visit to a migrant-labor camp, Dr. Asadi contacted Jose Gonzalez, superintendent of the Planada Unified School District.

When Asadi’s team arrived, a mariachi band played them into the parking lot. “We just started vaccinating and kept at it until we ran out,” Asadi said. She also organized clinics in Snelling, Le Grand and Planada vaccinating 3,500 educators, 1,000 seniors and those living in homeless camps in Merced County.

“We were the fastest shots in the west,” she laughed. “We would travel with vaccine, especially for ag workers. You had to get out there – a lot of these people don’t have cars; they’re not literate. Same with the homeless.”

Asadi quickly recognized the impact COVID-19 was having on the community’s children.

“I would hear, ‘I’m a single father, and I can’t do my job if my kids are not in school,’” said Asadi. “If that person is making $15 an hour — or less — and can’t afford childcare, they’re going to do one of three things – leave the kids home alone, bring them with them so they can stand there in the fields, or they’re going to send them to Mexico.”

That reality made Dr. Asadi fear for the safety of children of all ages.

“There is no one in this county who has vaccinated more children than me,” she said. “We have to weigh our interventions. … Two years ago, when we didn’t have vaccines, closing classrooms was more appropriate; now not so much.

“Kids need to be in school,” she said. “And as parents we need them to be there.”

Dr. Asadi lives in Merced with her husband, Ahmad Foroutan, a nut farmer who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. They have three children, one in graduate school, one in college and one attending Merced High School.

She joins a long list of notable women honored by Assemblymember Gray as Woman of the Year, including Alicia Rodriguez of Planada last year, Laura Elkington in 2020 and Mireya Aguila in 2019.

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