Towie Fong, MD

Internal Medicine, San Francisco

Bicultural/Bilingual Chinese Care Module

“You cannot deliver good medicine unless you take into account the cultural values and health practices of your patients.”

Long before culturally competent care became a catchphrase, Dr. Fong was championing the importance of addressing the cultural health needs of Kaiser Permanente members. In 1996, he realized his dream of creating the first bicultural, bilingual Chinese module in Kaiser Permanente.

What started as a staff of 15, has grown to 35 people, including 12 Chinese doctors, 1 Vietnamese doctor, 12 medical assistants, 2 diabetes educators, a nurse case manager, a behavioral medicine specialist and a physical therapist. This bilingual/bicultural staff provides care to approximately 24,000 Chinese members. “Before I started the module, I was considering an early retirement,” Dr. Fong explains. “But having this purpose in my life really rejuvenated me.” The model was used to create San Francisco’s Hispanic and HIV/AIDS modules during the subsequent two years.

Dr. Fong also has shared his expertise with other KP Regions: helping set up a Hispanic Module in Colorado, an African American Module in Ohio, and Hispanic, Chinese and Armenian Modules in Southern California.

Based on his experience, in 2001 Dr. Fong was invited to serve as the only practicing physician on a panel convened by the Health Resources and Services Administration, to develop cultural Competency indicators that will be used to assess federally funded health care organizations throughout the United States.