Tzu Chi International Medical Association
Serve with a Spirit of Love and Compassion
Inspired and moved by Master Cheng Yen’s aspiration of “healing people, healing diseases and healing hearts” for the medical profession, a group of medical professionals in Taiwan came together to form a Tzu Chi medical association in 1996. The association was later renamed TIMA or Tzu Chi International Medical Association. Over the years, the group has expanded to include global members spanning over 15 nations and regions. By leveraging on a multinational network of medical professionals, TIMA brings medical care to places where medical resources are inadequate or lacking.
The Singapore chapter of TIMA was established on 4th September 1999, and presently has around 800 members, comprising doctors, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists, etc. of different races and religions. Singapore’s outstanding healthcare services rival the best in the Asia Pacific region, and it is one of the most preferred destinations for medical tourism. The establishment of TIMA has afforded local healthcare professionals opportunities to take part in medical and disaster relief missions overseas and to serve the less fortunate in Tzu Chi free clinics held in remote areas of the neighbouring countries. These compassionate healthcare workers not only utilise their personal leave from work to participate in the mission trips, but also pay for the trips out of their own pocket. Even though they do not receive any income from their efforts, they serve with wholehearted dedication, in the hope of relieving the suffering of the sick and needy.
With the expansion of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine in Singapore, TIMA members are shouldering heavier responsibilities. They serve in Tzu Chi’s free clinics, conduct medical home visits, and help out at annual health screening events and free dental clinics for patients from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled Singapore (MINDS). In addition, a number of the members, who are professionals of various medical specialties, take turns to hold monthly health talks at the Tzu Chi Free Clinic, using simple, layman language to raise public awareness about health issues.
In spite of their busy schedules, many TIMA members still find time to participate in various Tzu Chi activities, such as volunteer trainings and sharing sessions, fundraising for Tzu Chi’s international disaster relief efforts, charity bazaars, sutra adaptations, recycling work, etc. As they assimilate into the Tzu Chi family, they learn humility and also develop a strong sense of purpose and mission in life through practical acts of love.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival each year, a group of TIMA members from Singapore would travel to Hualien, Taiwan, to participate in the annual international TIMA conference. The event enables TIMA members from various nations to exchange their knowledge and experience in humanistic medicine. Apart from achieving the goal of spreading Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine globally, the conference strives to promote the spirit of patient-centred care as a motivating force behind the efforts of healthcare professionals.
An Exemplary Humanistic Role Model
Dr. Ling Sin Yew, who is an oral surgeon by profession and a devoted Christian, gradually learned about Tzu Chi’s spirit through his participation in many Tzu Chi medical mission trips. In his medical profession, he personally experienced the Buddhist concept of “impermanence of life”, and also discovered the common ground between Buddhism and Christianity. Jesus preached the universal, unconditional love of God, while Master Cheng Yen advocates love and care for all living beings. Thus, Dr. Ling felt that Tzu Chi’s spirit of Great Love, which emphasizes respect, responsibility, selfless giving and forgiveness, bears similarity to Christianity’s universal love, “Agape”. Through serving the sick, he discovered that life is truly beautiful, and hoped to share the spirit of Great Love with more people.
Unfortunately, after his return from a Tzu Chi medical aid mission in the Philippines in 2002, Dr. Ling was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He travelled to Japan to undergo surgery and chemotherapy, and received the care and support of Tzu Chi volunteers there. During his hospitalisation, Master Cheng Yen was deeply concerned for his well-being and asked the volunteers in Japan to provide her with daily updates on his condition. In 2004, Dr. Ling passed away peacefully in Singapore, and the Master praised him for his courage and bravery. Although his life was shortened by illness, he had left an indelible example to the people of Tzu Chi Singapore.
A Renewed Home Environment for Grandpa Du
Wheelchair-bound Grandpa Du suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and malnutrition, and did not have anyone to take care of him. Noticing his unsanitary living conditions during house visits, TIMA members communicated with him several times and finally succeeded in obtaining permission to clean up his flat. Wearing face masks and gloves, a team of 20-plus Tzu Chi volunteers and TIMA members worked for six hours to clean his home, sort out his belongings and even repaint his walls. They also bathed him, trimmed his hair and gave him a shave. In return, the volunteers won his smile and friendship.
Dr. Edwin Lim, who has dedicated 15 years of his life to Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine, received the Healthcare Humanity Award on 26 April 2018, as a recognition of his continued, selfless contribution and dedication to the medical field.
Four NTU girls transformed the topic they had chosen for their graduation project into a call to action by collaborating with Tzu Chi to provide pneumococcal vaccination for the elderly.
Tzu Chi Home Care services team members “played the friendship card” with an elderly patient for three years, before they were able to talk him round to allow them to spring-clean his home for the Lunar New Year.