CHAPTER 3

Introduction to TIMA USA

Foreword

Written by Yingying Lee

When there are no football games, the Los Angeles Coliseum becomes an ideal venue for large-scale free clinics. Photo/Emerald Hsu

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I wish for all beings to be free from suffering, and I do not seek happiness for myself.

With the goal of serving those in need with compassion, a Tzu Chi chapter in the U.S. was formally approved by the State of California in 1984. An office was set up in Alhambra in 1989 to promote Tzu Chi’s four major missions in the United States, which include medicine. Thus began Tzu Chi USA.

Almost a decade later, in 1998, the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) launched in Taiwan. In the same year, TIMA chapters in Southern California and Hawaii were also created, expanding Tzu Chi’s ability to deliver humanistic health care to those in greatest need.

Around the world, TIMA members contribute their medical expertise and time to provide quality, patient-centered care to patients no matter where they are or their ability to pay. To date, there are 24 TIMA chapters across Tzu Chi USA’s nine regional service areas.

There are up to 1,500 active TIMA members who provide free dental and vision care, acupuncture, and chiropractic services through Tzu Chi USA’s Mobile Clinics. They also conduct free cancer and healthcare screenings, and deliver lectures on public health topics. Concurrently, TIMA members are the backbone of our international medical outreaches, often serving communities hard-hit by disaster and those who otherwise cannot afford the high price of modern health care.

Yet, even before TIMA was established in the U.S., Tzu Chi USA had set up the Buddhist Tzu Chi Free Clinic in Alhambra in 1993. Dedicated local medical professionals and volunteers began to provide compassionate care to those who were either uninsured or underinsured. Many of those served faced language, cultural, or even practical barriers such as transportation that hindered receiving proper care. Others dealt with great difficulty outside the realm of health, including extreme poverty, grueling jobs in California’s agricultural sector, nonexistent citizenship status, and even homelessness.

From our humble days of renting tour buses to transport agricultural workers to Tzu Chi’s Free Clinic in Alhambra to operating an entire fleet of state-of-the-art Mobile Clinics and three Health Centers (all accredited with Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike status), Tzu Chi USA’s medical mission has been dedicated to providing quality care to patients in need wherever they are. And, like the growth and hope that comes with every spring, we hope to see this mission continue to blossom year after year.

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