Photo of Dr. Jan and medical students Ron Jan takes a few moments to chat with medical students staffing the student-run clinic.

Vascular surgeon Ronald Jan, who has quietly volunteered his time during an unbroken decade-long string of Saturdays at a free medical clinic, recently was recognized as part of a month-long commemorative program presented by the Northern California PBS affiliate KVIE-Channel 6.

The television station presented one of its five "Asian Pacific American Heritage Local Hero Awards" to Jan in early May. The annual program commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month recognizes outstanding philanthropic contributions of Central Valley residents. As part of the awards, KVIE also broadcast video honors of Jan and the other recipients throughout the month.

"Ron is a very special person, committed to helping medical students as well as to serving patients, particularly those lacking ready access to adequate health service."
—Lindy Kumagai, UC Davis professor emeritus of internal medicine

Jan is the medical director of the free, student-run Paul Hom Asian Clinic, which is staffed by UC Davis medical students, undergraduate patient advocates and other physicians who volunteer their time. Clinic personnel perform interpreting services in Cantonese, Mandarin and Toishanese. A cancer screening clinic for Vietnamese speakers is scheduled one Sunday each month at the clinic office at 600 Broadway in Sacramento.

Jan established his private practice in Sacramento in September 1980, shortly before becoming a member of the UC Davis Health System's volunteer clinical faculty. He began volunteering at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic in the late 1990s. After conducting early Saturday morning rounds visiting his surgical patients, he arrives at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic by 9 a.m. and stays until all patients there have been seen.

"That's my Saturday routine," said Jan, who has an unfailingly perfect attendance record at the clinic.

Patient Need, Volunteer Dedication

Many patients rely on the busy clinic out of financial need or because of linguistic shortcomings, but others who are unwilling to entrust their medical care to conventional medical offices do so as a matter of preference.

Jan said that the program's success is attributable to two physicians: the late Paul Hom, who founded the clinic in the spring of 1971 while he was a medical student; and endocrinologist Lindy Kumagai, a UC Davis professor emeritus of internal medicine, who was the clinic's medical director for three decades until handing the reins to Jan in March 2006.

"Paul Hom was so committed to the clinic that while he lay in surgical intensive care, dying in his early 50s of pulmonary complications from lupus, he turned to Lindy Kumagai and asked, 'Do we have enough flu vaccine for the clinic?' His devotion and the tragedy of his early passing were enough to rip your heart out," said Jan, who is also a member of the American College of Surgeons.

Kumagai praises Jan's devotion to the clinic.

"Ron is a very special person, committed to helping medical students as well as to serving patients, particularly those lacking ready access to adequate health service," said Kumagai, an expert in thyroidal disorders. "Students frequently told me how much they appreciate the time he consistently devotes to them."

Student Appreciation

Anthony Bhe, a second-year medical student and co-director of the Hom clinic, says Jan sets high standards, while nurturing the professional development of each of the clinic's student volunteers.

"Dr. Jan shows a genuine interest in our well-being and future success as individuals," Bhe said. "He takes advantage of every opportunity to quiz us on the specifics of patient care, but also to teach us the details and knowledge that only a lifetime of experience can teach."

Jan says he feels compelled to volunteer his time to "serve the underserved" as well as to play a role in preparing medical students for practice.

"It's a wonderful atmosphere for patients, medical students and doctors alike," Jan said. "The clinic embodies all the reasons for which we go into medicine."