Providing Compassionate Care at Tzu Chi Medical’s Alhambra Health Center

Alhambra Health Center  |  January 11, 2019

There’s a strong philosophy that belies the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s free medical clinics.

In 1993, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation set up its first brick and mortar medical center in Alhambra, California.  Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Foundation, Dr. William Keh, describes the people-centric doctrine through which it was founded.

[The] Alhambra Heath Center is based on Master Cheng Yen's concept of putting people first. We are not only treating the symptoms...we are treating people's hearts.

Patients recognize this difference.  Some can see a more positive, family-like vibe when compared to more traditional, costlier settings that include private practices and hospitals.

I like their service because they make me [feel] relaxed, not like other hospitals which make me stressed.

The humanistic touch that’s part of Tzu Chi Medical Mission is one that draws in our greatest talent, too.

Physician Assistant Tung Ping Cheung crossed paths with Tzu Chi through his own journey to find spiritual meaning.  He came across a book about Buddhism, which eventually led him to Tzu Chi USA.

Tung Ping then decided to travel to Hualien, Taiwan, to visit the global headquarters of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and the homebase of its founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen.  There, he found the answers for which he’d been searching.

I went to TIMA and went to see how Master practices Buddhism. I saw many of Master’s concepts put in action and I thought, ‘My goodness! So many of these Jing Si aphorisms ring true to me!'

Shortly after, Tung Ping officially joined the staff of the Alhambra Clinic as a PA and went all in.  Located in an area that boasts a strong Latino population, the clinic noted a majority of Spanish-speaking patients.  Tung Ping started learning Spanish, along with relevant medical terminology, and now communicates with both Chinese-speaking and Spanish-speaking patients with ease.

Even fellow colleagues gush over Tung Ping’s whole-hearted contributions, with Vice CEO of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Dr. Eugene Taw, noting his agility with problem-solving and staffer Emmy Huynh on his wholehearted dedication.

Everyday his schedule is full like today. He is the only doctor here. He puts all his efforts into his work. There are walk-in patients; he says he will make time for them if they are willing to wait.

Adding to the impact and value of Tzu Chi’s medical mission, Tung Ping takes a family-like approach when it comes to patients.

I’ll think, 'If these were my family members, how would I have taken care of them? If these were my friends, how would I have taken care of them?'

This is a motivation that doesn’t go lost on patients at the Alhambra Clinic.

See how our team gives medicine a human touch at our free clinic in Alhambra:

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Still, there are other distinctions that a free community clinic has to offer.  While some may see the lack of resources that private practices or larger hospitals have as a great drawback, Dr. Taw says it offers doctors and medical professionals a rewarding and enticing challenge by demanding more of their expertise.

We have to use a lot of our thinking and our experience to take care of these patient. A lot of doctors…they like it here because it’s a challenge to [make] do with just two bare hands and a stethoscope and try to take care of the patient the best that you can.

With less procedures and testing to rely on, there is more conversation between doctor and patient.  Dr. Peter Chen explains it may be difficult at first, but it is key to making a proper diagnosis.

You have to build up a relationship, build their trust, build their confidence in you…When a patient tells you everything, they’ll lead you to make a diagnosis almost 80 percent or 60 percent.

The need to stay sharp, too, is critical according to Dr. Taw.  Seeing a high prevalence of diabetes through his work, he sought to educate himself on the illness, with the belief his profession required it of him.

When I first came here, I encountered a lot of diabetic patients… [I realized] if I wanted to take care of them, I have to learn their disease. I went to seminars, I went to classes and read, and I tried to make myself a better doctor...I found out a lot of doctors here are like that.

The excellence and dedication to the mission of medicine our Medical Foundation doctors show is one we are proud of.  You can learn more about our free clinics here and you, too, can help our medical staff continue to deliver quality care to people who need it most.