Upholding Community Health Through Collaboration in Stockton

Northwest  |  May 16, 2024
A physician measures a patient’s blood pressure at a collaborative free clinic event in Stockton, California. Photo/Irene Dong

Written by Ruoli Huang and Nancy Ku
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Jixin Lin and Adriana DiBenedetto 

Situated amidst farmland in California’s San Joaquin Valley and on the San Joaquin River, Stockton is known for its waterways that make up the California Delta. Stockton is also the most populous city in the county, and the 11th-most populous city in the state. Due to its location, Stockton is also a major export port for agricultural products. 

Yet, as of 2022, the United States Census Bureau reported that the poverty rate in Stockton was 14.8%, which is higher than the 12.2% poverty rate for the entire state of California. According to a 2022 San Diego County Self-sufficiency Standard Brief for single-adult households, the Federal Poverty Level for a single-adult household was an annual income of $13,590, or $1,132.50 a month, and the income needed to make ends meet in San Diego County was 3.7 times more than the Federal Poverty Level.

Neurologist Jimmie Woan is consulting a patient.
Jimie Woan, a neurologist from Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) in Modesto, consults a patient. Photo/Irene Dong

To provide high-quality health care to the local community, the Stockton Service Center in Northern California organized a clinic event on March 16, 2024, in the Stockton Chinese Benevolent Association, the third major clinic for Mexican and Chinese community residents. On the day of the event, specialized physicians offered Western medicine, Chinese medicine, dentistry, and chiropractic treatment. Here, patients who had been suffering from prolonged pain were finally able to smile again.

Where There’s a Will, There’s Tzu Chi

On the day before the event, the Tzu Chi Dental Mobile Clinic and a van full of supplies departed from San Jose for a two-hour drive, arriving in advance at the clinic. The Tzu Chi volunteers prepared from early morning until late at night to ensure the next day’s event would go smoothly.

As soon as the free clinic opened, there were many people waiting in line.
A line forms even before doors open at the medical service event. Photo/Irene Dong
The Tzu Chi youths took the opportunity of the free clinic to introduce Tzu Chi to the guests.
Tzu Chi Youth group members, also known as Tzu Shao, seize the opportunity to introduce Tzu Chi’s philosophy to guests. Photo/Irene Dong

On the day of the clinic service, a tent made from eco-friendly materials turned into a consultation room, and the interviewed patients filled out forms with the guidance of bilingual volunteers. After basic health assessments to document height, weight, and blood pressure, volunteers guided patients to the specialized clinic areas.

The doctor is consulting the patient.
A doctor carries out a patient consultation at the medical event. Photo/Irene Dong

The volunteers in each department work together through efficient collaborative processes that also aim to soothe the patient. Yi-Shin Wong and Kuo-ren Wong, members of the Tzu Chi Youth Group, also known as “Tzu Shao,” also introduced the spirit of the bamboo bank at the event, hoping the concept that small change can make a big difference can spread ever further. 

Good Health Empowers Communities

To meet different health needs, this clinic offered a wide range of medical specialties to provide a more comprehensive foundation of care. Ten years ago, community resident Jim B. Li immigrated to the United States from mainland China. When he was informed of the opportunity through the Stockton Chinese Benevolent Association, he was excited, and on the day of the examination, he was the first patient to arrive at the venue. On the same day, he received a dental X-ray and saw a Western medicine practitioner. As he left, Jim B. Li was optimistic, his whole body and mind feeling at ease. 

Tzu Chi serves people overseas and made me feel very welcome. Their work is done very well. The doctor’s service is very attentive. We hope to have more of these kinds of events to benefit the people in the future.

The free clinic is well organized.
The free clinic service gets underway as patients begin to sign in. Photo/Irene Dong
The doctors who participated in the dental clinic took a group photo this time.
The dental service team gathers for a photograph inside the Tzu Chi Mobile Clinic. Photo/Irene Dong

Local resident Douglas Hsia also learned about the medical examination through the Chinese Benevolent Association. Compared to Western doctors, people are less likely to be able to visit a Chinese doctor in the area, so Hsia chose the Chinese medical consultation service that day. After receiving acupuncture, he felt the effects instantly. “I have contact with the Chinese Benevolent Association and got to know about Tzu Chi’s free clinic program,” he shared happily. “The doctor checked my pulse and performed acupuncture therapy.”

I saw that everyone was busy with lots of procedures, and volunteers and doctors were very enthusiastic. It moved me very much. I hope this project will be made known to more people nearby.

Nancy Luanava, who was experiencing dental pain, searched for dental services online. When she saw the information about the event, she was astonished. “I searched for a dentist on the internet, and I found this free service, and so I came,” she said. “The doctor was very, very good; he treated my teeth, and I am very satisfied.”

Compassionate Acts Illuminate the Future

Dr. Tan Vuong, a chiropractor, was introduced to the program through a local Vietnamese volunteer, and immediately signed up to join the team of doctors. However, a few days before the medical examination, Dr. Vuong’s mother suddenly passed away. Even so, he wished to help others, and participated in the free clinic as scheduled. “This is the first time I have attended the free clinic of Tzu Chi’s. It’s very efficient, and in the future, it may be possible to strengthen publicity in the community so that more people can know about it, and we can help more people who need help,” Dr. Vuong said. 

The event’s success also relied upon the solid support of the Stockton Chinese Benevolent Association. Dr. Albert Louie, Co-President of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Stockton and a dentist who has been a long-term supporter of Tzu Chi free clinics, not only coordinated the venue space for this event but also contacted the Uplift Foundation to provide a delicious breakfast for the volunteers and doctors of Tzu Chi.

Mabel Morodomi, the Co-Vice President of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Stockton, has participated in Tzu Chi free clinic events in the past and is also studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. She even served as an emcee at last year’s Buddha Day Ceremony. 

Sudden Surprise, Intense Warmth

When the last satisfied patient left after a busy day, volunteers expressed gratitude for the successful conclusion of this free clinic event and worked together to dismantle the equipment, tents, and supplies at the venue, systematically packing them into vehicles.

After everything was tidied up, accompanied by a soft yet building tune, everyone began clapping their hands. It turned out that it was Tiffany Dong’s nineteenth birthday that day. This unexpected display moved Tiffany and her mother to tears as they embraced each other.

The volunteers were very happy.
The joyful volunteer team gathers for a photo. Photo/Irene Dong
The busy free clinic is over, and the volunteers are packing the truck in an orderly manner.
Volunteers pack away equipment and supplies after a day’s successful event. Photo/Irene Dong

Such a heartwarming scene lifted the hearts of volunteers even higher. The clinic’s staff included 13 members of TIMA and 42 volunteers from Stockton, Modesto, Sacramento, and San Jose. With the vibrant sunset as a backdrop, the volunteers split into three groups and set off on their way home. 

A total of 41 patients were served during this clinic event. Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Region will continue to provide free clinic services to the local community, hand in hand. 

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