I will never forget those first days at Nhan Hoa medical office on 14032 Lake Street, Garden Grove. It was during September, 1991, a few volunteer doctors and I provided medical services to the uninsured individuals. I have never thought about volunteering for a long period of time. Yet, it became part of my life for the past 20 years.
The first medical office was very small with an area of about 300 square feet.
The first medical office was very small with an area of about 300 square feet. The office was divided into 2 areas: reception area and exam area. There were only 4 doctors, Dr. Giac Nguyen, Dr. Vien Doan, Dr. Thong Vu, and I. Each of us dedicated 8 to 12 hours of our time to provide health care services to the uninsured patients. Although the office was not well-equipped, we really enjoyed our time helping the patients. Through words of mouth, the number of patients gradually increased along with the number of volunteers. I witnessed many serious cases where the patients’ lives was at risk due to lack of insurance and medications especially those who had kidney failure, high blood pressure, and asthma.
After a few months, we had to move to 14550 Magnolia Avenue, Westminster. This office was spacious comparing to the previous one. However, one of the problems was the high amount of rent. To resolve it, each doctor contributed $1,000. Thus, we were able to continue serving the uninsured. During this period, the committed volunteers formed the Board of Directors and elected Dr. Vien Doan as the Chairman, me as the Vice Chairman, Kiet Truong as Secretary, Hanh Dao as Treasurer, and Dr. Thong Vu as Medical Director. Dr. Vien Doan was a very motivated person. He constantly tried to work with the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers and other community clinics in Orange County so that Nhan Hoa could become part of this coalition. There were times where people discouraged us and did not recognize our efforts due to the fact that Nhan Hoa was not well-equipped and only had doctors and nothing else but a stethoscope. However, we were not discouraged. Because of our persistence, more doctors and people in the community were moved by our efforts and joined us in fulfilling our mission.
About half a year later, we had to relocate again. This time we moved to an office on 10092 Chapman Avenue, Garden Grove with an area of 1,000 square feet. Soon after our relocation, the number of patients increased significantly. In addition, Nhan Hoa became part of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers. The financial support from the coalition allowed the clinic to hire an executive director and a staff physician. Most importantly, Nhan Hoa began to earn income through payments from Medi-Cal and Expanded Access to Primary Care Program. As a result, Nhan Hoa became a more stable clinic. Unfortunately, right when Nhan Hoa began to shine, due to personal reasons, the Chairman, the Secretary, and the Medical Director resigned. Their resignations were big disappointments to the remaining staff members and volunteers.
Nonetheless, we did not give up. As we continued to work hard, the name, “Nhan Hoa Clinic” became well-known in the community. More patients came to the clinic and we eventually reached our maximum capacity.
Since Nhan Hoa reached the maximum capacity, in order for us to provide services to the uninsured patients, we had to move to a new facility which located on 14421 Euclid Street, Garden Grove. During this time, the Executive Director was Christine Ta, a young and talented woman. Through her 10 years at Nhan Hoa, she made many significant contributions to Nhan Hoa in terms of developing new programs for Nhan Hoa as well as expanding our services.
Around mid-1994, Nhan Hoa started to provide mammography screening through the breast cancer program. In May 1997, a pharmacy was built to provide medications to the patients. In July 1997, Nhan Hoa also received funding to provide dental services to the patients. Moreover, Nhan Hoa developed health education programs where our health educators facilitated classes to teach patients about chronic diseases and how to manage their chronic conditions. In addition to these new services, Nhan Hoa also collaborated with the University of California, Irvine in researching about liver and blood diseases. Likewise, we have collaborated with the Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation (VACF) where we helped women to detect breast cancer through screening and breast health education. Most importantly, a mental health program was developed to provide consultations to patients who have mental disorders. Last but not least, with the help with several optometrists and ophthalmologists, Nhan Hoa was able to provide eye examinations to our patients.
As Nhan Hoa transformed into a more comprehensive clinic, providing quality health care services and promoting preventive care and health education became Nhan Hoa’s priorities and goals. Due to the efforts of meeting our goals, Nhan Hoa’s standard of care improved and we successfully diagnosed and educated disease management to patients who have high blood pressure and diabetes. In 1999, with available resources, Nhan Hoa helped Dr. Duy Ton and Nhung Binh, Pharm. D. to build a community clinic in San Diego to help providing medical services to the uninsured population in this city. This contribution was important to us because it allowed Nhan Hoa to help not only the uninsured population in Orange County but in San Diego as well.
For Nhan Hoa Clinic, the Board of Directors has played in important role in managing its operation. The Board of Directors often worked with the Executive Director in resolving challenges and making important decisions. Devotion is the most significant quality that the members of the Board of Directors possessed. Whenever there is a controversial issue, the members are willing to meet up for 4 to 5 hours to discuss and decide on the best solution. Although it was just a volunteer position, the Board of Directors has never felt tired of working for Nhan Hoa throughout these years. With the efforts of these dedicated members, Nhan Hoa has become stronger. We will surely lead Nhan Hoa toward a brighter future.
“Owning a facility” was one of the biggest wishes that the Board of the Directors had for Nhan Hoa. Through our savings in the past 5 years, in 2009, Nhan Hoa was able to purchase a building on 7661 Garden Grove Boulevard, Garden Grove with an area of 12,000 square feet. After a year of construction, the new facility was opened to serve the uninsured in December, 2010. However, renovation was not completed until October 2010.
To celebrate our new home and most importantly, our 20th year of providing comprehensive health care services to the people in the community, Nhan Hoa Clinic invited everyone in the community especially supporters, patients, and representatives from different collaborative organizations to our Open House event to celebrate this special moment with us. We owe our success to the people who contributed their efforts and financial support to this organization. We pledge to work harder and try to expand our services in order to meet all the needs of all of the patients in Orange County.
Thua Vinh, M.D.