Tzu Chi Oakland’s Joint Free Clinic: Safeguarding the Health of Residents in Need

Northwest  |  June 9, 2023
Tzu Chi medical volunteers provide meticulous and thoughtful dental treatment to patients who come to the clinic. Photo/Andy Chiang

Written by Wen Tian, Shuxian Lin
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

On April 16, 2023, the Tzu Chi Oakland Service Center organized a large-scale community free clinic, enlisting the help of eight doctors and three nurses, including Chinese medicine practitioners, dentists, and chiropractic specialists, to offer complimentary consultations and treatments. Nearly 50 volunteers actively participated in the event, assisting with various tasks, ranging from setting up the site to helping patients with check-in, filling out forms, conducting basic physical examinations, and providing services in the consultation rooms.

Approximately seventy patients attended the clinic that day, primarily local low-income families and individuals without insurance coverage. Many of the patients belonged to the local Chinese community. They faced financial difficulties that prevented them from seeking medical care at hospitals. These individuals were deeply grateful to Tzu Chi for free medical consultations and treatment services.

The free clinic’s process runs smoothly as patients line up for consultation.Photo/Andy Chiang
After patients check in, volunteers assist those who do not speak English with interpreters. Photo/Andy Chiang

The free clinic ran smoothly as patients lined up for consultations. Upon check-in, volunteers assisted those who needed help with language interpretation and form completion. After completing the forms, patients proceeded to the nurse’s station for basic physical examinations, including height, weight, and blood pressure measurements. Volunteers then guided patients to different consultation rooms dedicated to various specialties such as Traditional Chinese medicine, dentistry, and chiropractic care.

The doctors at the clinic were a dedicated team of volunteers from Tzu Chi and the local community. Patients had the opportunity to choose a specific specialty based on their needs and conditions to receive professional treatment.

Dr. John Hsu, a chiropractor, participated in the Tzu Chi free clinic for the first time. His connection with Tzu Chi began when volunteer Jennifer Thai received treatment from Dr. Hsu after a car accident many years ago. Jennifer Thai shared her experiences with Tzu Chi during her treatment, which deeply touched Dr. Hsu.

Dr. Hsu learned that Tzu Chi USA is an organization that assists people regardless of race or religion. Whenever there is a need for help, Tzu Chi volunteers are always there to lend a helping hand. When Jennifer Thai informed him about the free clinic, Dr. Hsu readily agreed, seizing the opportunity to contribute to the community in any way he could.

Dr. Hsu expressed, “Jennifer Thai’s deep love and her stories of involvement in disaster relief truly touched me. It made me realize that Tzu Chi USA is an extraordinary organization, and it inspires me to give a part of myself in return.”

Selena Liu, a dental hygienist with 11 years of experience, has participated in many Tzu Chi free clinics. She was happy to use her skills to help the community. She shared, “There are some low-income people here who needed oral treatment. In addition to dentistry, all health-related treatments will be given in this clinic.”

“It's great that Tzu Chi has such a joint free clinic to take care of the underserved people and allow them access to medical services.”

John Ng, a volunteer who brought his mother, a stroke survivor, to the free clinic for the first time, was introduced to Tzu Chi Oakland through his wife, Christina Chen, who volunteers for Tzu Chi’s tax return services. Intrigued by Tzu Chi’s work, John became interested in Buddhism and studied Dharma. Despite initially struggling with the Chinese language and not fully understanding Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, John diligently listened and learned every day until he experienced a profound understanding, bringing him great joy.

Inspired by Master Cheng Yen’s teaching of “Be Diligent,” John returned to the United States and took on the role of Diligent Officer in Oakland, encouraging volunteers to engage in Dharma learning and daily prayers. During the pandemic, John’s mother joined him in prayer, finding solace and peace of mind. Despite her stroke in 2021, her condition has improved with the dedicated care of her family and Tzu Chi Oakland volunteers.

John said, “She no longer complains of pain and feels very good. Whenever the prayer songs are played, she joyfully sings along.” During the clinic, John brought his mother to see the chiropractor. With the combined consultation of two Chinese medicine doctors, her pain was significantly alleviated. He is deeply grateful to Tzu Chi Oakland for organizing this free clinic. In addition, John appreciates his wife’s unwavering support and assistance. He firmly believes that his mother’s health will continue to improve, and the daily practice of Dharma and prayer will fill his heart with energy and provide hope for the future.

This collaborative free community clinic embodies the spirit of “great love is selfless,” following the Buddha’s compassionate teachings and caring for disadvantaged groups through compassion, empathy, joy, and giving. Providing free medical services extends valuable support to local community residents while fostering community cohesion and shared growth.

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