Doctors at Tzu Chi’s El Monte Clinic Look to Future Volunteers to Carry the Torch

South El Monte Health Center  |  January 11, 2019

The goal of Tzu Chi medical clinics is to address the needs of those most in need in neighborhoods where access to appropriate medical care often is not available to them. The doctor-patient relationship has always been a priority as well as putting the needs of patients first. The El Monte, Calif. clinic is one such clinic that has longtime doctors administering care with hopes to bring in new volunteers to one day take over with the same dedication and compassion.

While the doctors believe in the importance of the doctor patient relationship as one of family, they always wish to pass down the spirit of humanitarianism to the next generation of volunteer doctors as well.

Tzu Chi volunteer doctors at El Monte have been at the clinic for many years and are maturing closer to retirement age leaving room for younger medical staff to come in, learn and take over the reins. Bringing in student volunteers is important but can also be a challenge. However, El Monte continues to tackle the sustainability of their services and spirit with promising results.

One of El Monte’s longtime volunteers is Michael Ma, a dentist at the dental clinic who began practicing in the USA Tzu Chi free health clinic back in 1993. He had been invited by doctor Richard Chang.

Dentist Peter Chen also has a long history with volunteering at El Monte, as he started practicing in the US clinic in 1993:

At the time, I was a dentist in Taiwan. A volunteer from the USA gave a booklet to me titled ‘Master Cheng Yen’s World of Tzu Chi.’ I was very moved after reading it. A female buddhist nun spending so much dedication for Hualien, building a hospital in what we called the back of the hill. So I decided to give all the charity funds that I had saved up to Tzu Chi.

The clinic also attracted Shin-Cung Chen, an acupuncture practitioner who decided to devote his work to volunteering with Tzu Chi El Monte clinic after ending his own private practice in 2006.  At first there was far fewer patients than the more than 600 who currently come in monthly.

At first, we didn’t have that many volunteers, but the numbers gradually grew. Now, I am more than 70 years old, and some day I will have to retire. So we often think about bringing in new blood.

The clinic holds regular dental assistant training classes and has approximately 30 students each semester. Students receive a certificate after completion of the course. One student, Daniel Taw, completed the eight weeks of training from varying dentists and volunteered 100 hours in Tzu Chi’s clinic. As a certified hygienist, he has volunteered for more than a year.

They taught us everything ranging from procedures to the anatomy of the mouth, as well as instruments and how they’re used and what they're called. Every now and then I get to shadow a dentist, meaning I can go back and observe procedures that are being done, and it’s all very helpful for what I want to do in the future.

It is the hope of the clinic doctors that the volunteers will aspire to use their skills to work at the clinic and do something good.

We really hope this spirit will continue on. Seeing them really makes me very happy to know that there is someone carrying on the torch.