TIMA USA Southern

Part 3

Written by Shioubih Yang
Edited by Chenglin Li

Dr. Raymond C. Ho speaking

Dr. Raymond C. Ho establishes TIMA Atlanta in 2002, holding monthly medical consultations for the next two and a half years (2002–2004). Photo/Xiuyue Lin


TIMA Atlanta

Paving the way for monthly medical consultation activities in Atlanta, Georgia, Tzu Chi USA’s Atlanta Branch Office established TIMA Atlanta on July 1, 2002, with Dr. Raymond C. Ho as Director General and the chapter’s first convenor.

Understanding Georgia State Laws & Regulations

On August 17, 2003, TIMA Atlanta held a free medical consultation event at the Atlanta Branch Office, with services encompassing internal medicine, cardiology, psychiatry, pediatrics, chiropractic, acupuncture, family medicine, and allergy management. Blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol measurement services were also readily available. The event was organized with low-income and uninsured neighbors in mind. Additionally, it provided $15 tetanus booster shots to adults who had gone without a tetanus booster for over ten years. To ensure all needs could be addressed effectively, Chinese, English, and Spanish volunteer translators were available on-site on the day of the free clinic event.

The state of Georgia does not authorize doctors to provide diagnoses or prescribe medication for patients at free clinic events such as these, and patients are required to sign a waiver form that prevents filing a medical lawsuit. Due to treatment limitations, community members hesitated to attend a medical event that couldn’t provide more substantive care. In light of the circumstances, TIMA Atlanta decided to suspend its medical consultation services on July 1, 2004, and focus its efforts on organizing health talks to help the public access information regarding daily fitness, health care, prevention, and early detection of diseases. 

Reinstating the Initial Vision

On September 21, 2014, TIMA held a Happy Life seminar for community healthcare professionals to facilitate the continuance of TIMA Atlanta’s operations, revitalizing its initial vision. More than a dozen doctors were invited to participate in the seminar, hoping that the organization of future free clinic events could empower healthcare professionals and encourage the participation of more volunteers.

Prior Chief Executive Officer of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and former Board Director, Dr. William Keh, and his wife, Mary Keh, were the minds behind the tea gathering. Dr. Keh was set to go to Georgia for a mobile clinic endowment to Tzu Chi by an organization in Savannah, Georgia. When Mary Keh suggested holding a tea gathering at the office, the pair had yet to realize the hours-long distance by car between Savannah and Atlanta. Yet, a truly memorable event was organized because of this beautiful little misunderstanding. During the gathering, community healthcare professionals shared their personal experiences with Tzu Chi and their advice on how to better serve the community together in the future.

Dr. William Keh shares his personal experience at the inaugural TIMA Atlanta tea gathering
Dr. William Keh shares his personal experience at the inaugural TIMA Atlanta tea gathering, hoping to encourage more doctors to dedicate themselves to practicing compassionate medicine. Photo/Guomin Luo
Dr. Grace Chai (back row, second right) explains the various types of vaccinations for adults
During Tzu Chi’s Health Day event on April 12, 2015, Dr. Grace Chai (back row, second right) explains the various types of vaccinations for adults according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including those for influenza, shingles, meningitis, and tetanus. Photo/Xiuyue Lin

Attending the tea gathering were Tzu Chi volunteers, doctors and their significant others, and Tzu Chi Collegiate Association members (also known as Tzu Ching), with members of the congregation totaling more than 80 people, many of whom were visiting the Atlanta Branch Office for the first time. Seeing so many new faces was rare, and to those in attendance, it indicated a world of possibilities for the future. After the tea gathering, Dr. Max Kuo assumed the convenor role for TIMA Atlanta, while volunteer Charlie Sun agreed to become the chapter’s director on October 1 of the same year. Tzu Chi USA Atlanta Branch volunteers and TIMA Atlanta medical staff then began to reorient the content and format of free clinic activities in conformity with Georgia’s state laws and regulations.

On April 12, 2015, TIMA Atlanta launched a brand new Health Day event, with volunteers carefully designing both indoor and outdoor venues, including six health education stations indoors and three activity stations outdoors, which encompassed Pediatrics by Dr. Max Kuo, Dentistry by Dr. C.J. Lin, Family Medicine by Dr. Grace Chai, Ophthalmology by Dr. Teresa Hsu, Pharmacology by Pharmacist Corey Tse, and Dietetics by Dietitian Jieying Huang. Dr. Raymond C. Ho and Dr. Chung Yi Niou were also present to answer local attendees’ diverse questions and concerns.

Reflecting the educational focus of the health education stations, three health activity stations were set up at the outdoor venue, namely a vegetarian diet station, exercise and sports station, and children’s play station. At the vegetarian diet station, fresh fruit and vegetable juices were prepared on-site for everyone to taste, promoting familiarity with vegetarian alternatives.

On October 15, 2015, TIMA Atlanta presented a dental health seminar. As part of Tzu Chi Atlanta’s Happy Campus program bringing Tzu Chi’s charitable, medical, and educational services to schools in low-income school districts, TIMA Atlanta dentist, Dr. C.J. Lin, held an oral hygiene lecture at Cary Reynolds Elementary School, a public elementary school in Doraville, Georgia. The first session was for 4th and 5th graders, with 350 people attending, including teachers, counselors, and administrative personnel. 

During the lecture, students learned about the need to reduce the amount and frequency of sugary desserts and sweet drinks they consume, brush their teeth two to three times a day, and floss their teeth before bed. The informative lecture saw many students raise their hands to ask questions during the Q&A session. More than 300 people attended each lecture.

On May 5, 2019, Dr. Willie Chen assumed the role of convenor for TIMA Atlanta, and volunteer Charlie Sun renewed his role as the chapter’s director general. During the year, TIMA Atlanta was committed to medical outreach services in Mexico, with ophthalmologist Dr. Willie Chen, volunteer Jiajun Hsu, TCM practitioner Dr. Alex Chen, Dr. Luqiu Wang, nurse Xiaoqian Zhang, and volunteer Yuci Xu, traveling to Mexico to support Tzu Chi USA’s August and November free clinics. Beginning in the aftermath of the 2017 earthquake in Mexico, TIMA USA had been organizing teams that regularly traveled to many Mexican cities to offer free medical outreach clinics, an activity that would continue until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States, all public activities were suspended. Seeing the severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies, TIMA chapters nationwide dedicated all their efforts to supporting those on the front lines, raising funds, and distributing crucial PPE.

As of 2023, with vaccines and test kits available, the effects of the pandemic gradually became more manageable. The Atlanta Branch thus hosted a medical care and humanities lecture at its office on June 10, inviting Dr. Bozhi Hsu, attending doctor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital, who happened to be furthering his education at Emory University Hospital, as the speaker.

TIMA Atlanta took the opportunity this lecture presented to gather caring healthcare professionals who had temporarily left due to the pandemic, facilitating a warm-up for the re-launch of the community healthcare program in Atlanta.

Southern TIMA Atlanta

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