Written by Audrey Cheng
Translated by Evan Wang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, ordinary healthcare needs have continued and many have been left neglected. To ensure that the facilities and programs of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, also known as tzu Chi Medical, can better prepare to treat its patients and community members ongoing needs, Tzu Chi USA hosted the “Amplify Health” virtual gala on March 20, 2021. The online event raised funds for Tzu Chi’s medical mission, which encompasses Tzu Chi Medical’s efforts. The goal: to raise money for new and upgraded equipment, facility and medical program development, and ultimately, better serve the community as it overcomes the pandemic.
That Saturday evening, to kick off the event, Tzu Chi Medical Chief Executive Officer Dr. Stephen Denq and more than 50 medical staff members and volunteers participated in a virtual chorus of “In Praise of Medical Professionals.” They sang in both English and Chinese. Though those singing were not professional singers, it was a joyful and touching sight to see the Tzu Chi Medical family come together in song. Then, Dr. Denq shared a message of thanks with all who were watching, including his fellow colleagues. He acknowledged their hard work in being able to procure a new milestone in healthcare, saying that “after three and a half years of hard work, on October 26, 2020 we were finally awarded as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike.”
This federal designation allows Tzu Chi Medical’s operations and capacities as a health center to expand and do more for patients. Specifically, Tzu Chi Medical will be able to further assist uninsured and underinsured individuals with a sliding fee scale system. This coincides with the missions of Tzu Chi’s Health Centers, which began in 1993, to serve the underprivileged and those who otherwise faced barriers, economic or social, in getting quality healthcare services. In his remarks, Dr. Denq emphasized that, “we very much welcome vulnerable groups to visit Tzu Chi Health Centers; serving these people is Tzu Chi’s tradition and mission!”
As a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike, Tzu Chi Medical was able to procure doses of COVID-19 vaccines to administer to anyone who qualified from among the general public. The first step was to set up a bilingual hotline in English and Chinese to ensure that members of our Asian American communities could register with greater ease. By the end of January, healthcare facilities across California received a second batch of vaccines; yet, after this initial supply, vaccines were issued on a week-by-week basis. By mid-March, more than 1,000 doses of the vaccine had been given out by Tzu Chi’s Health Centers in California. Of the effort, Dr. Denq expressed:
On January 13th, the chairman of the board of directors of Tzu Chi Medical, Dr. William Keh, made a wish to be able to vaccinate 1,000 people. However, when they had only received 100 doses of the vaccine with no future supply in certainty, his goal seemed like a pipe dream. Luckily, they were able to cross this threshold in March. It fulfilled not only Dr. Keh’s wish, but it was an achievement that was working to safeguard public health in Southern California. In fact, Those who had received their vaccines courtesy of Tzu Chi Medical gave us a hearty thumbs-up.
During the gala broadcast, Dr. Keh expressed great gratitude for everyone’s generosity and support. He expressed his confidence that Tzu Chi Medical could now be capable of providing more services to more patients, recruiting more caring volunteers, and providing even stronger patient-centered healthcare. Dr. Keh also declared his goal of heralding the expansion of Tzu Chi Health Centers across the states and being able to touch more people with humanistic care and encourage healthier lifestyles.
With the help and power of every good-hearted person, Tzu Chi Medical can indeed bolster the services it provides at its health centers, mobile clinics, domestic and international outreaches, and healthy community programs. Finally, Dr. Keh acknowledged his colleagues for working together to overcome the many difficulties of the pandemic, rising not just to meet the standards, but to exceed them.
The two-hour program was a close-up of the moving stories of Tzu Chi Medical’s activities in the United States and around the world. As the audience was moved during the sign language performance of “Embrace All,” the fundraising meter reached and exceeded the fundraising target. At the end of the program, volunteers thanked all the participants, for thanks to all who have shown Tzu Chi Medical their support, more people may live healthier, happier lives.