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.
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.
On October 11th, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California honored Dr. Robert James Stein, KM at its 8th Annual Silver Chalice Awards Dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco. The prestigious Silver Chalice Award was presented by Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone and Bishop of Oakland Michael Barber SJ. It is given annually to the individual who has contributed most to the ongoing success of the Order of Malta Clinic, a free clinic that provides medical services to the uninsured and poor in the Bay Area.
The awards dinner helped raise funds to expand the clinic’s operations from three days to four days weekly. Over the last eight years, the Order of Malta Clinic has provided over 23,000 basic medical care treatments to new and returning patients with only the support of private donations. The clinic accepts no fees or public funding for its services.
In 2006, Dr. Stein was asked to help determine the feasibility of opening the free Order of Malta Clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Stein became part of an ongoing committee that designed the service parameters for the clinic, most of which still exists today and has allowed the clinic to exceed the two-and-a-half year average life span of faith-based clinics.
“Bob is fused into the fabric of the Order of Malta and is one of the most generous volunteers I know. From serving on the medical committee for the Order of Malta Clinic board of directors to contributing the flu shot clinic at Summit Hospital, serving the elderly at St. Anne’s Home and Mercy Retirement Center, to Lourdes medical director and vice chair of the Growing the Faith committee, Bob’s contributions are incomparable,” said John Christian, president of the clinic’s Board of Directors. “When the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California counts their blessings—Bob is one of its greatest.”
Dr. Stein was the department chairman of Anesthesiology at Mt. Diablo Hospital Medical Center in Concord, California. There he developed significant expertise in cardiac, neurologic, obstetric, pediatric and trauma anesthesiology. After earning his doctorate in medicine from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he did a residency in medicine and anesthesiology at St. Louis City Hospital and University of California San Francisco, respectively. Stein and his spouse, Helen Mary, are long-time residents of Walnut Creek.
Each newsletter we will highlight a member of our dedicated staff or volunteer team. In this issue, we feature Dr. James H. Breeden, M.D. who has been a regular volunteer at the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California since it first opened eight years ago.
Dr. Breeden is a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine with residency at Harvard Affiliated Hospitals. He retired in 2009 after practicing for over 43 years. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, specializing in Hematology and Adult T-cell Leukemia-Lymphoma.
For the past 25 years of his career, Dr. Breeden worked at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland and Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Richmond. The Piedmont (CA) resident also spent three years providing patient care at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, and part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“He is such a well-qualified individual,” said Dr. Vona Lorenzana, interim medical director at the Order of Malta Clinic. “You’re not going to get physicians with the caliber and credentials that Dr. Breeden brings to the table everywhere, so we’re privileged and blessed to have his services here at the clinic.”
“I initially began supervising the resident doctors from Oakland Kaiser who volunteered their time at the Order of Malta Clinic and quickly recognized the need to provide quality care for patients who suffered from chronic medical issues and were not able to pay for the care they required,” Breeden said. “I truly enjoy spending time at the clinic, and the physicians and volunteers there are such a terrific group to work with. We really get a chance to know our patients and I find they’re extremely appreciative of the care we give them.”
Dr. Breeden is one of the many volunteer physicians, translators, administrators, and nurses who offer their time and expertise to over 2,500 uninsured patients a year in the Bay Area — making the Order of Malta Clinic one of California’s leading providers of healthcare to the area’s working poor.
We are thrilled to announce this year’s Champion and recipient of the Silver Chalice Award, Dr. Robert J. Stein, KM. Dr. Stein is a founding organizer of the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California and long-time member of the Clinic Board’s medical committee.
About Dr. Stein KM, MD
What do Louis L’Amour, Peggy Lee and Robert James Stein have in common? That’s a question that can be answered only by a few. However, the gregarious, accomplished and magnanimous Bob Stein is, and has been, the answer to many a quest and quandary of the Order of Malta Western Association.
A Conversation with Dr. Vona Lorenzana, Interim Medical Director of the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California
Since opening in 2008, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, located in Oakland, has provided over 22,000 free medical appointments.
“This is a remarkable place and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Dr. Vona Lorenzana, interim medical director, who joined the clinic in January 2015. “There is a tremendous need to provide quality healthcare in this country, especially for those who don’t have the luxury of affording it. We try to provide free medical help to patients by scheduled appointments and to make sure they’re treated with respect. We have been told this is a distinguishing characteristic from other free medical clinics in the Bay area.”
This is illustrated by the experience of a patient recently seen. The woman had been
Volunteering The Order of Malta Clinic one of Californi
“We have an incredible staff, as well as many wonderful doctors and nurses who volunteer their time – it’s a great example of teamwork. Nothing would be accomplished or be effective here without their generosity and their commitment to helping those who need it most.”
Like many of her colleagues, Dr. Lorenzana feels she gets more from her experience working at the clinic than she gives. And a big part of her motivation to help people here comes in part from scripture:
Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick.”
Matthew 25:36 “I was sick and you looked after me.”
Luke 9:2 “We’re asked to heal the sick.”
Luke 10:9 “The call is to heal the sick.”
The mission of the clinic is to provide free medical care to the uninsured, without regard to race, creed, or religion. Most patients appreciate the care delivered.
“We also have to look at the issue from a public health viewpoint. Often, patients are in the U.S. visiting from another country. One patient recently had a question of active pulmonary tuberculosis. She may not have sought medical care if she had to pay $300 a visit. But if we can diagnose such a problem and treat that person, then we’ve saving a lot of people from acquiring such a serious disease.”
It is also important for people to know the clinic offers much more than primary care. Specialists in the fields of Cardiology, Dermatology, ENT (Ear/nose/and throat), Gastroenterology, Gynecology, Hematology Oncology and Rheumatology are here regularly. These specialist are often under-utilized because patients don’t realize they are available. One of the current goals is to organize an eye care team with a doctor spending at least four hours a month at the clinic providing diabetic eye exams.
It is important to understand this is a team effort. None of the specialists available would be able to work effectively without many volunteers including a
It is especially important for donors and potential donors to know how important they are. They are the foundation for this endeavor.
“Without thegenerous support of our donors. This endeavor could not exist without them. It’s a joint effort.”
Longtime Knights and Dames will remember Richard “Dick” Madden’s dedication to the Order of Malta, our former Western Association president and co-founder of Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, who died on June 25th at the age of 87 surrounded by Joan, his wife of 58 years, and the rest of his large and loving family.
Dick was interested in so many things. He was an alumnus of Princeton University, the University of Michigan Law School and New York University, building his expertise in both business and law. He also served in the U.S. Navy, proving he was as tough as he was smart. His long career, took him through the ranks of Mobil, teaching at NYU, and ultimately to the Potlach Corporation where he was the chairman and CEO for 23 years. He shared his expertise by serving on many Boards, leaving his mark on each one.
Dick was a Knight of Malta and, following his retirement from Potlatch in 1994, he became active in the Order of Malta which has as its’ purpose serving the sick and the poor. He served as President of the Western Association for six years, among other work with the Order. It was under his leadership of the Order of Malta that decided the clinic’s placement, as he was the one who adamantly insisted on the placement of the clinic at its current location at the Cathedral complex in Oakland.
To know him was to see what a life spend dedicated to helping others really meant. For 14 years, he and Joan traveled to Lourdes in France with sick people and other Order of Malta members on the Order’s annual pilgrimage. Dick served as Hospitaller for 6 years, founded the Parish Nurse Program and the Good Samaritan Program, as well as co-founded the Northern California Clinic.
In addition to his role as president, Dick became Vice-Regent of the Order’s Sub-Priory of Our Lady of Philermo and was awarded the Grand Cross in Obedience and the Grand Cross of Merit. He also met with and groomed various Knights from Northern California who would eventually be the founders and officers of the Cathedral Clinic Corporation.
He was a man who believed in service and giving back—and he certainly did that with the Order of Malta. He often said that the most rewarding aspect of membership in the Order of Malta was helping others in need.
With all of this Dick also found time to live an active life, full of travel, sports, and as a father and loving husband. We all hold his friendship and guidance to the Order of Malta in high regard. He is sorely missed.
Donations in Dick’s memory can be made to: Order of Malta – Western Association, USA, 465 California St., Suite 818 San Francisco, CA 94104-1820
Welcome to the inaugural newsletter for our beloved clinic. Through this newsletter we hope to inform friends and supporters of the clinic of the latest developments at “the miracle on 21st Street.”
It’s my pleasure and privilege to serve as President of the Board of the Order of Malta Clinic for Northern California. The Clinic serves a vital role in maintaining the physical health of the uninsured and marginalized in our Bay Area community. What began as a dream 10 years ago with then-Bishop Allen Vigneron, has come into existence due to the vision of exceptional, dedicated leaders within the Order, including, most notably, the indefatigable efforts of the late Richard Madden, GCM and Bill McInerney, KM. Today it is a thriving clinic that has certainly beat the odds, as clinics of its kind usually only last two years compared to our 10.
Today, the clinic operates three and one-half days per week. We sponsor a podiatry clinic at the St. Vincent de Paul Society once a month. Twenty-three volunteer physicians, interns, nurses and nurse practitioners, representing over a dozen medical specialties, make up our staff. Members of the Order volunteer in many capacities—physicians, nurses, administrative support, board oversight, and some just lending a sympathetic ear to our patients in the waiting area.
Truly, the clinic is the signature program in the Western Association. This isn’t boastful —it’s a fact of which we can all be justly proud. As we grow in hours and breadth of services, we have come to realize that the need for a well-staffed, well-equipped clinic is greater than ever. Since opening our doors, we have had nearly 23,000 patient visits.
None of this would be possible without the support of the many friends of the clinic, who share our passion for serving the sick and the poor among us. I hope you enjoy this newsletter and find it informative. If you’d like to learn more about the clinic—just ask! All of the volunteers at the Clinic love to share its history. Our grateful patients make it all worth the effort.
I also hope that that you will be able to join us on October 11th at the Silver Chalice Dinner as we honor one of our founders, Robert Stein, M.D., KM. Sara Cumbelich and her hard-working committee promise a magical evening at the St. Francis Yacht Club – you won’t want to miss it! Details on the event can be found at http://orderofmaltaclinic.com/fundraising-dinner/.
On behalf of our lords, the poor and the sick, thank you for your support.
John P. Christian, KM