Tucked far away deep in Central Asia, Mongolia is an exotic country to most of us here in the United States. Not many of us have Mongolian acquaintances. We are separated not only by distance, but also a different language and culture. Images of Genghis Kahn and warriors on horseback may come to mind when we think of Mongolia.

One morning Vanchensuren, a Mongolian wife and mother of two young children, came to our Clinic desperately ill. She had a relentless fever, shakes and chills for a week and was becoming more debilitated with each passing day. In a couple weeks, she would have great health care insurance, but she had none now.

Initially she was in California with her husband and two young children as tourists. Soon, she was to accept a coveted position of resident scholar at a prestigious university on the East Coast. They were staying with friends in the East Bay. Someone in the small Mongolian community here had previously been to the Clinic and encouraged her to get an appointment.

Upon arrival to the Clinic, she appeared so ill that a recommendation was made for her to go to the nearest emergency room. She adamantly refused saying she had no money and did not want to incur a large hospital bill and debt. During our assessment, she hardly had the strength to sit up. She was passing blood and pus in her urine and had intense pain on her right flank. After a discussion with our staff urologist, a diagnosis of ascending pyelonephritis was made. We negotiated with her family. An attempt would be made to treat her with an injection of a strong antibiotic plus an oral antibiotic. However, if she did not improve in several hours, she was to go to the emergency room. Everyone agreed.

Fortunately, she did well and came in later for a follow-up appointment. What a difference during this second visit and examination, smiles all around! Test results this time came out clear. Treatment in the Clinic was done at a fraction of the cost compared to what would have been incurred at an emergency room. Not only is money saved when comparing evaluation and management of a patient in a small clinic, but also congestion which impedes timely treatment of other patients in most emergency rooms. Because of generous support given to our Clinic, a favorable impact is made, not only for the individual, but to the greater local medical community, their resources and services.

By definition, a neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the complex nervous system, central and peripheral, including the brain and spinal cord. What can’t be so easily defined is all that drives Dr. Thomas Wallace, KM (Knight of Malta), to joyfully and tirelessly serve at the Clinic day in and day out. Dr. Tom, as he is affectionately known, will say it’s simple and tell you that everything is done for, through and with Our Blessed Mother Mary to whom he has completely devoted his life. “You can’t live without her” and “what a way to live” are what he readily and passionately conveys with a big grin.

Dr. Tom’s journey began a number of years ago with his education at Indiana University — BS in Anatomy and Physiology in 1952, followed by his Doctor of Medicine in 1955. By 1960 he completed his residency in Internal Medicine and Neurology at the Cleveland Clinic and in 1965 became Board Certified in Neurology. Dr. Tom also served for several years as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps. And had a private practice for many years, after which he retired and so would have been his opportunity and time to practice medicine.

After Mass one day In 2014, Dr. Tom relates that he was approached by a Herman Carmassi, KM, a former Clinic board member, about coming down to the Clinic. Dr. Tom’s pastor, Rev. Robert McCann of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Oakland, was also part of that initial conversation, or you might say persuasion. The experience of serving at the Clinic was sealed for good after Dr. Tom’s first trip to Lourdes the same year. Then in 2015, Dr. Tom officially began his journey towards membership in the Order of Malta, and he was invested as a Knight of Magistral Grace in 2017.

Through his work at the Clinic and on the annual Lourdes pilgrimages, Dr. Tom exemplifies serving “our Lords, the sick and poor.” He loves the fact that there are no barriers between him as a medical provider and the patients he sees and treats. No money is exchanged, there is no billing, no reimbursements to deal with, nothing — not even an electronic medical records program which most medical providers spend their time typing away at and looking at a screen while trying to talk with (“talk at” might be more appropriate) or listen to their patient. Nothing to interfere with the direct doctor and patient relationship.

Another benefit is networking with an incredible group of fellow medical providers — doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses with various backgrounds, specialties and training. If Dr. Tom is not with a patient, he is the “Consultation Room” which doubles as a kitchen lunch/break room, meeting room and locker room — the place for providers and staff on duty to congregate. Real consultations take place between the different medical specialists and providers in between sips of coffee and a quick bite — this room is central station for the Clinic’s daily flow of activities.

“The Order of Malta started with and is all about that first pilgrim hospital in Jerusalem” says Dr. Tom. He shares that intensely deep spiritual connection in being able to do hands on work and continuing to fulfill the mission of the Order so many years later. “We are part of what was started almost 1,000 years ago and are still treating patients.”

“Our Blessed Mother keeps me here” says Dr. Tom with his winning smile and a twinkle in his eye.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – June 20 –  New Mobile Unit for Sick and Uninsured Blessed by Fr. Eric Hollas and Ready for Bay Area Launch. Bill Cumbelich in the background holds holy water.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, June 21, 2018 – The Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California yesterday unveiled its new mobile clinic, which will bring healthcare to those in need throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The mobile unit received an inaugural blessing from Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB, and a warm welcome from supporters and friends, who were gathered to celebrate the Clinic’s decade of service to the Bay Area’s uninsured community and officially inaugurate the 10th anniversary year.

“Seeing this mobile clinic ready for use is the culmination of many years of work by so many volunteers,” said John Christian, KM, Board chair of the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California. “For years, we’ve shared a vision for bringing health services to more Bay Area patients, many of whom are unable to visit our clinic in downtown Oakland. This new mobile unit makes that dream a reality,” he said.

The 36-foot unit is equipped with a medical examination room and storage bays for large-volume supplies, and boasts the recognizable Order of Malta red logo and branding. It will offer expanded capabilities to the Order of Malta Clinic, which has provided free on-site preventative health services and treatment for more than 30,000 patient visits at its location adjacent to Christ the Light Cathedral since opening in 2008. Clinic staff will establish partnerships with local parishes and community organizations to schedule mobile site visits and to enroll additional volunteer support. Service is planned to launch in August.

“To have the launch of this mobile clinic as part of our overall tenth anniversary celebration is a tremendous testament to the work and commitment of our volunteer network,” said Sara Cumbelich, Anniversary event chair and Clinic Board member. In addition to the launch of the mobile clinic, a key element of the anniversary celebration will be the Order of Malta Clinic’s annual gala, to be held on October 2 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.

This year, A Knight for Champions: 10th Annual Silver Chalice Awards Dinner will honor Quest Diagnostics Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Rusckowski and Deborah O’Hara Rusckowski, DM, both major supporters of the Order of Malta and the Clinic. Quest Diagnostics provides laboratory testing to the Clinic at highly discounted rates, while Deborah Rusckowski, a registered critical care nurse and health care advocate, serves as a Delegate for the Order of Malta to the United Nations. The Rusckowskis will journey from New York City for the honor.

“The gala will recognize the Rusckowskis and all of our great volunteers, staff and community supporters whose goodwill and dedication know no bounds,” Cumbelich added. “This event has grown in stature and impact each year, touching many members of our community who have no prior experience with the Order of Malta or our Clinic,” she said. “We want to expand our work and inspire more support, so we can help even more people receive quality health care regardless of ability to pay. The mobile clinic, our gala, and the day-to-day work of our volunteers are helping us achieve those goals.”

About the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California

Founded in 2008, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California is a nonprofit medical clinic located in Oakland, California. Led by the Order of Malta, the Clinic provides free on-site preventative health care services and treatment to uninsured and low-income patients. The Clinic has a volunteer staff comprised of more than 50 volunteer physicians and nurses, and has seen more than 30,000 patient visits to date.
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Now in our 10th year serving the poor and uninsured, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California will be reaching even more patients with a new 34-foot mobile health clinic. The mobile unit will provide care to communities throughout the Bay Area, and potentially beyond.

“Our mobile clinic marks the next chapter in our organization’s mission,” said John Christian, KM, Board chair of the Order of Malta Clinic. “It will provide our team with a means to reach even more people in need, especially those who are unable to travel to Oakland.”

Clinic staff are working to establish partnerships with local parishes and community organizations to develop scheduling and enroll additional volunteer support. The mobile clinic will be unveiled in June at an Order of Malta event in San Francisco and will begin service in August.

For more information on the mobile health clinic, please contact us 510-587-3000 at info@orderofmaltaclinic.com.

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Free Medical Clinic to Launch New Mobile Services

OAKLAND, CA, May 29, 2018 – The Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California is celebrating its 10th anniversary of serving the health care needs of the poor and uninsured. The average span of faith-based medical clinics is just 2 ½ years but the Malta Clinic continues to grow in services, number of patients served and geographic reach.

The Clinic has provided free on-site preventative health services and treatment to more than 30,000 patients since first opening its doors in Oakland in 2008, thanks to the dedication of more than 50 volunteer physicians and nurses, and a small full-time medical staff. The Clinic is dedicated to carrying forward the Order of Malta’s centuries-old mission of “upholding human dignity and caring for people in need.”

“Our Clinic is a critical health care lifeline for thousands of people,” said John Christian, KM, Board chair of the Order of Malta Clinic. “This milestone presents us with an opportunity to recognize the many individuals who have played pivotal roles in the Clinic’s success and will help us raise awareness and resources to provide even more services.” Christian noted that the Clinic is poised to grow its service network beyond Oakland in the coming months, recently purchasing a 34-foot mobile unit which will deliver health care throughout the Bay Area. “Our mobile clinic marks the next chapter in our organization’s mission. It will provide our team with a means to reach even more people in need, especially those who are unable to travel to Oakland,” he added. The mobile clinic will provide care to communities throughout Contra Costa County, and potentially beyond. Clinic staff are working to establish partnerships with local parishes and community organizations to develop scheduling and enroll additional volunteer support. The mobile clinic will be unveiled in June at an Order of Malta event in San Francisco, and will begin service in August.

In addition to the launch of the mobile clinic, a key element of the 10th anniversary will be the Order of Malta Clinic’s annual gala, to be held on October 2 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. This year, A Knight for Champions: 10th Annual Silver Chalice Awards Dinner will honor Quest Diagnostics Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Rusckowski and Deborah O’Hara Rusckowski, DM, both major supporters of the Order of Malta and the Oakland Clinic. Quest Diagnostics provides laboratory testing to the Clinic at highly discounted rates, while Deborah Rusckowski, a registered critical care nurse and health care advocate, serves as a Delegate for the Order of Malta to the United Nations. The Rusckowskis will journey from New York City for the honor.

“The gala will recognize the Rusckowskis and all of our great volunteers, staff and community supporters whose goodwill and dedication know no bounds,” said Sara Cumbelich, event chair and Clinic Board member. “This event has grown in stature and impact each year, touching many members of our community who have no prior experience with the Order of Malta or our Clinic,” she said. “We want to expand our work and inspire more support, so we can help even more people receive quality health care regardless of ability to pay.”

Cumbelich noted that The Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California has been ahead of the curve on delivery of health care, and plans to stay there by investing in its future. “The Order of Malta was founded in 1048 in Europe, providing protection and medical care for pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. More than a thousand years later, we’re still helping those in difficult situations with their health care needs,” she said.

About the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California

Founded in 2008, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California is a nonprofit medical clinic located in Oakland, California. Led by the Order of Malta, the Clinic provides free on-site preventative health care services and treatment to uninsured and low-income patients. The Clinic has a volunteer staff comprised of more than 50 volunteer physicians and nurses, and has cared for more than 30,000 patients to date.

The Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California provides a vital safety net, help with basic health care needs for those without health insurance. Our “Miracle on 21st Street” has made such a difference for so many. We will regularly share here with you a patient’s story of gratitude.

Shao-Chieh is a 64 year old Chinese American who has lived the American dream. Unfortunately, through a series of unforeseeable events, he has now entered the American health system quagmire.

He was born in Taiwan in the 1950’s, as one of five children in his family. Following graduation from Taiwan University with a degree in mathematics, he fulfilled his two year Taiwanese Army service requirement. Soon afterwards, he successfully matriculated into a prestigious American University and graduation with a Master’s Degree.

Marriage and a successful career followed. Being hardworking and entrepreneurial, he opened his own business which became quite prosperous. He and his wife lived the “good life.” Sadly his wife died about 10 years ago. He lost his ambition and drive to work long hours, 7 days a week. His business suffered and he had to declare bankruptcy.

He lost his health insurance, along with his wife and business. He was hoping to make it to age 65 and receive Medicare. Then he lost his health and became seriously ill. Under normal circumstances he would have gone to a nearby emergency room. However, fearing an enormous bill, he suffered at home alone!

Then a friend mentioned the Malta Clinic. He came here; tests were done and appropriate medication given. He is doing well now, praise God!

Every time I go into the clinic, I’m very impressed with the doctors, the nurses, the people who are there helping out on behalf of the Church with warm smiles, their kindness, to take care of anybody who walks in off the street who needs help.

— Michael C. Barber, S.J., Bishop of Oakland

It was a special day at the Clinic on Friday, April 27, when Fr. Francisco Javier Diaz Diaz, S.J., also known as Dr. Diaz, blessed the following Red Team members soon to depart for Lourdes. Our medical team includes, Dr. Thomas Wallace, KM; Nancy Cecconi, DM, RN; and Dr. Vona Lorenzana. Also going to Lourdes and pictured here is Anne Brussok, DM, who recently started working the front desk and on other Clinic projects. Please pray for everyone going to Lourdes, especially for our dear Malades, that requests for healing be granted and that we all may embrace God’s will.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Otis R. Taylor, Jr.

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Fred Pons has knobby knuckles and the coarse hands of a jack-of-all-trades handyman.

The El Sobrante resident is a house painter, but when he’s not painting, he does odd jobs like landscaping to make ends meet.

Landscaping is how he got the spider bite this summer.

He was bitten on a Wednesday evening as he cleared wood chips from a yard in Berkeley. His hand and forearm swelled so that he looked like Popeye after scarfing down a can of spinach. He felt as if his hand was under a heating lamp. And he had a fever.

But instead of going to the emergency room, Pons gambled with his health. He has no health insurance and was afraid he’d struggle to pay any medical bills if he sought emergency help.

So, he waited until Friday morning to get medical help.

That’s when he went to the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, a free clinic in Oakland that’s open Monday, Wednesday and Friday for walk-ins, and Tuesday for appointments.

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