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United, Past and Future: The Story of Pan Asian

Pan Asian doesn't trace its origins to a committee or a focus group or a commissioned study. Instead, it arose from a problem.

This problem was afflicting one of the elderly male residents being served by the CCACC Evergreen Senior Center, in September, 2009. The man had been operated on for a kidney tumor in China, before he'd emigrated to the US. Like most new immigrants, he lacked health insurance, and he couldn't afford to see a doctor to check up on his condition. This naturally made him worried and very anxious.

When the director of Evergreen, Ling Cheung, learned about his situation, she collected a group of spirited volunteers in order to make inquiries. They quickly discovered that Montgomery County had many organizations providing free medical care to uninsured and low-income recipients. With their help, the elderly man was able to get the care he needed.

This incident indicated there was a need in the Chinese community for this kind of service, and CCACC therefore established a health care group. This group conducted health fairs, held talks, performed community outreach and advocacy, and explored and publicized ways to get free or low-cost health care. These activities drew an enthusiastic response and attracted the support of Primary Care Coalition (PCC). This inspired Ms. Cheung to consider expanding the health care group into a full-service clinic, staffed by Chinese-speaking volunteer physicians and RNs, to serve the Chinese community.

To achieve this dream, a preparatory group was formed. Dr. James Shih, who had supervised a Hepatitis research lab at NIH, was invited to lead it, and other members included Ms. Cheung, M. K. Lee, Annie Chien, Cecilia Tsang, Daniel Hsu, Yao Hui Wong, Lisa Lee, and Catherine Tseng. Dr. Alan Cheung, a pioneering figure in the Asian American community, was brought on as a consultant and was of great help in coordinating the group's activities with county government health care agencies. However, there were two major obstacles.

First, the clinic needed a resident physician. It was then that I had the honor of being invited to volunteer.

Second, the clinic didn't have the experience or resources to operate on its own. Fortunately, Steve Galen, the Executive Director of PCC, stepped in and arranged for MobileMed (which had 35 years' experience running mobile clinics) to handle case management and patient follow-up services while CCACC handled patient care and registrations. This arrangement benefited both organizations and proved to be a success.

Once these problems were solved, the Pan Asian Volunteer Health Clinic was ready to start receiving patients.

Although I was eager to get started, I realized that being the only doctor at the clinic might be difficult. So I called Drs. Hon-yuen Wong and Ling Yang to see if they could help out, and both promised their full support.

On September 17, 2002, the clinic had its inaugural opening, at its temporary home in the Rockville Senior Center. My first two patients were Yipi Lin and Shirley Chen; both were very happy to be receiving free medical care while being able to communicate with us in their native language. This promising beginning made me feel very excited to be part of this health care effort.

Initially, we three doctors took turns staffing the clinic each month. However, as the number of patients and requested services increased, it became apparent that the clinic needed to expand. So, on October 7, 2003, we moved to a county-owned clinic at 2000 Dennis Ave and began serving patients every Tuesday afternoon.

By this time, our staff had greatly increased. We had many enthusiastic doctors helping out, including Yaoyao Zhu, Sharon Yang, Joan Luo, WeiXu、Mian Bei, XiaoMing Xhou、Dongmei Wang, Quifang Cheng, Changting Haudenschid, Jie He, Lei Xu, Jeffrey Chung, Hanbo Zhang, Andrew Wong, Xiaoping SHao, and others. Head Nurse Amy Lee was a central figure, responsible for managing patient treatments and exams within the clinic and with other health care organizations. We even had a pharmacy, staffed by Hsing-Chih Su, Kun Chen, Alice Wang, Sam Wu, Trang Tran, Mandy Kwong. Theresa Liu, Ms. Cheung, and others provided able management expertise, and our many enthusiastic volunteers helped out in innumerable ways.

Now with a bigger facility and more staff, Pan Asian was able to diagnose and treat over 800 patients a year, all of them uninsured, low-income Asians who probably would have gone untreated. Although our focus was on Chinese residents, we accepted all ethnicities, including Vietnamese, Cambodians, and so on.

In 2009, CCACC Chairman M.K. Lee, CCACC Health Division director Barbara Teng, Pan Asian director Wendy Shiau, and I launched an effort to make Pan Asian independent and optimize its use of resources. With help from PCC and the Montgomery County government, Pan Asian was spun off from MobileMed and began sharing space with Mercy Clinic, at 7-1 Metropolitan Court. We would now be open on Fridays, as an independent clinic serving uninsured and low-income residents.

Leaving MobileMed, however, cost us their experienced clinic administration and follow-up services. Around that time, PCC also terminated the grant that had been used to fund Pan Asian’s operations. This was a most difficult stage of Pan Asian's existence, and only the dedicated leadership of clinic directors Wendy Shiau and Kate Lu, plus the unqualified support of the CCACC board, pulled us through.

It's been 13 years since Pan Asian was founded. It's surprising how time passes when volunteers are working hard. To many, Pan Asian's existence may seem strange, but to its many patients, it's a warm, comforting place.

As I write this, CCACC is working on plans to redevelop Pan Asian, and everyone is excited and full of expectations over what the future will bring.

Dr. Moping Chow
former Medical Director, Pan Asian Volunteer Health Clinic.

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