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Chad Pata

Medical Care For Those Who Need It

The clinical rooms have been re-equipped and modernized, thanks to donations from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation and Hawaii Dental Service (HDS), and now they are prepared to serve 50 percent more patients per month than the previous high of 200.

Becoming a full-time clinic has not come without costs. The budget ballooned from $80,000 a year to $400,000, but the outpouring of funds from the government and local companies has filled the void.

“There is a gap, and we are the only organization in town who is serving them,” says Wong. “That is why City and County funds us, because we are the only free dental clinic. The reason HMSA (Hawaii Medical Service Association) and HDS are willing to fund us is they are not providing service to this group – and it is good that they help. They are being very altruistic, because they know we are filling this tremendous need that no one else is filling.”

To date, HDS has donated $750,000 to the clinic, including $150,000 in equipment last year to help with the refurbishing process.

“Hawaii is ranked at the bottom of the nation in oral health of our children,” says Faye Kurren, CEO of HDS. “AMM’s dental clinic is helping to improve our oral health by providing dental services to children and adults, regardless of their ability to pay. They are serving people in our community who would otherwise not see a dentist for care.”

Adds HMSA president Michael Gold, “We have a responsibility to take care of people in our community, and our partnership with AMM provides health care to many who would be most overlooked. We’re aware we’re limited in what we can do on our own. Because of AMM, people who really need medical care are able to get it.”

In order to show appreciation for the generosity of HMSA, HDS and QMC, as well as to raise funds to continue their missions, AMM will honor those organizations at its 30th anniversary gala next Friday, May 17th in the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom.

Honorary chairs will be U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and wife Linda, and there will be a special musical performance by a young man AMM helped out a quarter-century ago.

Wong met pianist Chris Cerna when the mission was stuck in the Philippines in 1989 during the coup d’ etat against President Corazon Aquino. Cerna, 12 years old at the time, had lost his eyes from cancer and had never been trained on piano, but had listened as his twin brother played.

After his twin succumbed to his own bout with cancer, his mother was startled to hear the songs that her dead son used to play rising up from her living room. There she found Chris playing by ear the songs he had listened to his twin play for all those years.

The doctors so thoroughly enjoyed his performance, they paid to fly Cerna and his mother to Hawaii. where they outfitted him with artificial eyes. The Cernas decided to remain in the Islands, and Chris eventually went on to graduate from the University of Hawaii.

This is just one story among thousands, but it is these successes that keep AMM moving forward and helping those in most dire need.

“Sure, it is but a spit in the ocean,” says Wong, lamenting all the patients they have to turn away. “But for the volunteers who do this, they do so willingly, and in the process they also benefit the patients. It allows them to be charitable, which benefits them and the patient. It is a win on each side.”

To purchase tickets for the gala, call 847-3443 or to donate to AMM, or utilize its services, visit alohamedicalmission.org or call 847-3400.

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