TIMA USA Mid-Atlantic Region

Written by Jenny Sun
Translated by H.B. Qin

TzuChiUSA_Bimonthly Journal_EN_71_TIMA NJ_map
TIMA New Jersey, medical students and future doctors standing in front of Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic office building

With the dedication and support of TIMA New Jersey, medical students and future doctors set their passion for promoting community health and wellness in motion. Photo/Jay Lee


TIMA New Jersey

Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region strives to not only heal sickness, but mend the heart while inspiring greater care for all, and empowering future medical professionals as a cornerstone of Tzu Chi’s local medical legacy.

Debbie Chen, former Executive Director of Tzu Chi’s Mid-Atlantic Region, invited New Jersey’s compassionate physicians to a free clinic event in the Dominican Republic in 2002. It was ultimately through this occasion that TIMA New Jersey was formed in July of the same year.

Dr. Debbie Chen (second left), then Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region chapter, lays the foundation for TIMA New Jersey. Dr. Michael Chen (left) is the first TIMA New Jersey leader.
Dr. Debbie Chen (second left), then Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region chapter, lays the foundation for TIMA New Jersey. Dr. Michael Chen (left) is the first TIMA New Jersey leader. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region

A Fantastic Lineup

“In the beginning, there were only two doctors. Four months later, the number had increased to 25. Five years later, there were already more than 30 doctors,” Suesue Yang, the then secretary of TIMA New Jersey, recalled. TIMA New Jersey has recruited passionate and caring doctors in a wide range of specialties, forming a fantastic and powerful lineup, indeed. 

Dr. Michael Chen, a cardiologist who served as TIMA New Jersey’s leader and convener, described how the medical services held in the years past had shifted to consultations only in the United States due to insurance and regulation limitations, making it challenging for doctors participating in the free clinic events to perform their function to the best of their ability.

As doctors, we all hope to do more for our patients, but the insurance and regulation limitations only allowed us to provide consultation.

After three years of preparation, Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region gathered 19 departments and 27 doctors to establish the Jersey Medical Advisory Care Center on March 18, 2007. Here, doctors of various specialties provided services to the community on the second floor of the center, including personal medical consultation, flu shots, medical seminars, spiritual development seminars, hospice feeding in the medical room, blood donation, as well as bone marrow testing and donation. The doctors utilized weekends or after-work hours to provide these personal consultation services to patients, giving of themselves fully to the spirit of love with the support of selfless medical volunteers, all in the hopes of helping patients achieve physical and mental well-being. However, even with a diamond team, the circumstances still created a barrier to providing truly substantive patient treatment.

A Critical Step Forward

Combining strengths, learning from experience, and set on benefiting the community, TIMA New Jersey took a step forward in 2014 after 12 years of trials and tribulations. Joan Yu, TIMA’s manager and team leader at the time, recalled the breakthrough that took place that year, saying, “The first time we did a blood test for a family care program, the blood test had to be sent to a testing center in California, and I was so nervous about tracking the time of delivery that I didn’t dare go to sleep in the middle of the night.” The cost of long-distance shipping, insurance, and the timeliness of the test worried Yu, but fortunately, it arrived at the testing center safely and smoothly. Soon after, Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC), formerly Saint Barnabas Medical Center, in New Jersey collaborated with TIMA and began assisting with blood testing services, solving many of the concerns surrounding the transportation of blood test specimens across state lines.

The significance of this partnership was not only in regards to the time and cost-saving in transporting blood tests, but also the opening of a new model of partnership between TIMA and medical institutions.

Mid-Atlantic Region Executive Director Jackson Chen (left), Dr. Su H. Wang of CBMC (second left), and Alfred Anthony (second right), Mayor of Livingston. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region
TIMA’s collaboration with Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC) opens up a new partnership model for medical services in New Jersey. On April 2, 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Region team participates in a health fair for the Chinese community. Pictured are Mid-Atlantic Region Executive Director Jackson Chen (left), Dr. Su H. Wang of CBMC (second left), and Alfred Anthony (second right), Mayor of Livingston. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region

TIMA New Jersey and volunteers from the regional office began their collaborative efforts alongside CBMC, later joining hands with Holy Name Medical Center, and soon Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center, too. Since then, there have been many opportunities for collaboration. 

“At first, volunteers from the chapter went to the medical centers to serve at their events and helped them set up their volunteer system. Later, they, in turn, assisted the Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region chapter with community medical consultation and family care,” shared Joan Yu, the joint effort allowing them to benefit even more people.

Dentists giving treatment
The first free dentistry clinic event on May 22, 2016, creates an unforgettable experience for volunteers in New Jersey, with Tzu Chi medical professionals and volunteers from New York and Long Island joining in the effort. Photo/Jay Lee

Meaningful Care Without the Cost

Interacting with and learning from major medical organizations ushered in a time of change for the medical services that were originally limited to consultation. Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region followed the practices of Tzu Chi USA National Headquarters in San Dimas, California, studying medical insurance laws and regulations, and launching free dental care events that attracted support from various parties. TIMA New Jersey also received support from Tzu Chi New York and Long Island, elevating its dentistry assistant training, as well as its search for licensed local dentists and scalers in New Jersey, and forming a team of volunteers for the free dentistry clinics.

The day everyone was waiting for finally arrived in 2016, when in May, Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region held its first free clinic event. Dentist Catherine Lei Kuo led the TIMA New Jersey team, supported by TIMA New York and Tzu Chi Long Island dentists Kenneth Liao and Richard Yang, who accompanied her during the entire free clinic process. Irene Wang, a dental scaling technician, assisted with the training of the dental assistants.  

Irene Wang, a TIMA New York dental scaling technician, shares her experiences and provides advice on the free clinic process as Tzu Chi’s Mid-Atlantic Region conducts its first dental clinic event
Irene Wang, a TIMA New York dental scaling technician, shares her experiences and provides advice on the free clinic process as Tzu Chi’s Mid-Atlantic Region conducts its first dental clinic event.Photo/Jay Lee

After many years, the volunteers still fondly recall their first free dentistry event. The chapter’s volunteers exchanged hundreds of phone calls, back and forth, to confirm and take people’s appointments. Some volunteers still remember the skepticism of the people on the other end of the line when inquiring about the free services, how their hearts seemed to fill with hope as they learned more, and ultimately ensured their names were on the appointment list.

The experience shared by Tzu Chi USA’s Northeast Regional medical team and the dedication of medical volunteers in New Jersey touched the doctors and medical staff who came to participate. And so, they have been happy and willing to accept Tzu Chi’s invitation time and time again, so long as their schedules allow. Some would even refer other doctors, or bring their family members who are also doctors or medical staff from their clinics to participate together.

TIMA New York’s dental team additionally assisted Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region’s medical team in organizing the Dental Volunteer Training Program, from training to lending equipment and inviting more doctors on board to provide the best services possible to more patients.

Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region first free clinic event onsite
Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region holds its first free clinic event in 2016, with dentist Catherine Lei Kuo leading the TIMA New Jersey team, and support from TIMA New York and Tzu Chi Long Island dentists. Photo/Jay Lee

The World Is Different

Medical activities are different from general volunteer services – in addition to the passion to help people, professional medical training is also very important. Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region and TIMA provided specialized training to volunteers, including programs for dental assistants and Mobile Clinic volunteers. For them to learn and gain experience in these two medical spheres, a complete course program and team were required.

Steven Voon (right), Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, travels to New Jersey to train vision care volunteers.
Steven Voon (right), Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, travels to New Jersey to train vision care volunteers. Photo/Jay Lee

As Tzu Chi’s Vision Mobile Clinic traveled from New York to support the Community Health Day event, Steven Voon, Executive Vice President of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, and his wife, Olivia Ming Chung, Fresno Mobile Clinic Manager, traveled from the West Coast to the East Coast to New Jersey to conduct their first-ever vision care volunteer training course and hands-on training for interested medical volunteers. On August 24, 2023, the Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region provided free eye care services to the community for the first time, with the assistance of Tzu Chi’s vision care team from New York.

Some people have corneal disease, some people have retinal disease, and, it’s possible that if these patients didn’t come here, they wouldn’t even know that they have these diseases with their eyes. It helps a lot for them to come here and get checked.

Rising Stars Shine Bright

In recent years, a group of medical students has frequently appeared at Tzu Chi’s annual free community clinic event in New Jersey, and their number has been rising year after year. They are from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and were called upon by Dr. Karen Lin, a professor in the school’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. They give up their holidays to provide their services at the event. Recently, medical students from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark have also joined the free clinic activities.

“Medical students will have the opportunity to participate in Tzu Chi’s free clinic activities in New Jersey, and to observe the on-site medical team’s work and consultations,” said Dr. Lin, the event offering a valuable opportunity for future doctors to gain experience in their field. 

Students from Bergen County Community College’s Dental Hygiene program and Fortis Institute’s Dental Assistant program have also participated in the free dental clinics. Through Tzu Chi’s medical outreach events, these future doctors and medical professionals can glimpse the skills and ethics of dedicated medical professionals with a firm belief in the power of human compassion. Dr. Cynthia Smith, a medical intern living near the Mid-Atlantic Region Office, told the volunteers she was very glad to have met Tzu Chi, and experienced this philosophy firsthand.

Cultivating future doctors with compassionate hearts and skills is not only the teaching policy of the medical school but also an opportunity for medical volunteer organizations to provide education. One such professional, the late Dr. Hueiju Lin, a dentist, is remembered as a deeply passionate individual, devoted to training an up-and-coming generation of medical professionals. Thinking back on their joint effort to facilitate an exchange program for medical students from China and the United States, Dr. Karen Lin shared how working with Dr. Hueiju Lin allowed her vision to come true: “She was meticulous and insisted on perfection, never gave up until the goal was achieved. Because of her perseverance, the student exchange program between medical students from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Tzu Chi University Medical School was finally realized.” Although Dr. Hueiju Lin has passed on, her spirit lives in all those she moved and inspired to do more for others.

TIMA Pittsburgh

Doris Chang (third left), Executive Director of the Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region, gifts two blood pressure monitors to TIMA’s Pittsburgh team
Doris Chang (third left), Executive Director of the Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region, gifts two blood pressure monitors to TIMA’s Pittsburgh team. Photo/Fuchiang Tsui

Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region’s Pittsburgh Service Center in Pennsylvania was established in 1993. There has been significant growth in the team’s charitable works and educational initiatives over three decades. However, the team wished to make their medical mission more robust, as their only related activity in those early days had been their participation in organizing blood testing for bone marrow donation to support Tzu Chi’s Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Once known as “the Steel City,” Pittsburgh has experienced a marked transformation from manufacturing to medicine and healthcare innovation. Outstanding medical institutions, such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, make the medical care sector an essential pillar of the city. In such an influential sphere, with so many medical professionals willing to help others, the Pittsburgh Service Center resolved to establish a local TIMA chapter to fulfill Tzu Chi’s medical mission. On October 8, 2023, TIMA in Pittsburgh was born with assistance from the Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region chapter.

On that day, the Pittsburgh Service Center held its first free dental clinic event and provided flu shots. Due to the shortage of available medical equipment, Doris Chang, Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region’s Executive Director, Sam Chou, its Vice Executive Director, and nine volunteers drove six and a half hours, leaving in the morning the day before the free clinic to support the event. They brought four sets of chairs, scaling machines, and the necessary equipment — a full truckload. 

Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region’s medical team leader, Shihchuan Fen (left) and other volunteers
Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region’s medical team leader, Shihchuan Fen (left), oversees the free dentistry clinic event. Photo/Doris P. Chen

Before the free clinic began, an inauguration ceremony was held. During this momentous occasion, Dr. Shihchuan Fen, the vice-convener of TIMA Pittsburgh, announced the official establishment of the chapter, representing the dawn of Tzu Chi USA’s medical mission in the city. Tzu Chi USA CEO Debra Boudreaux sent heartfelt congratulations, and Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region Executive Director, Doris Chang, gifted two blood pressure monitors for use at future health events.  

A Tzu Chi dentist examines a patient
A Tzu Chi dentist examines a patient. Photo/Fuchiang Tsui

TIMA Pittsburgh is supported by many outstanding dentists, including Dr. Ang Li-Miller, Dr. Tao Jiang, Dr. Vera Liu, and devoted dentistry students inspired to attend by Dr. Shengyan Hsu, this TIMA chapter’s convenor. Dr. Hsu continues to demonstrate the spirit and culture of Tzu Chi and the mission of Tzu Chi’s TIMA chapters in the hope that, through the establishment of TIMA and the activities of the free clinic, local medical professionals will be encouraged to continue planting beautiful seeds within the communities they serve, helping to cultivate a bright, flourishing future.

Demonstrating sincerity and steadfastness from the very start, volunteers from TIMA New Jersey and TIMA Pittsburgh continue to support one another, developing with determination. And, the journey is ever-enduring.  


Latest Issues

#72 | Spring 2024
#71 | Winter 2023
#70 | Fall 2023
#69 | Summer 2023
#68 | Spring 2023
#67 | Winter 2022