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October 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
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Albrecht von Boeselager, grand chancellor of the Order of Malta, visits the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. He is joined by Dr. Vona Lorenzano, the clinic's medical director, and Dr. Thomas Wallace.

Malta Clinic fulfilling mission

The grand chancellor of the Order of Malta paid his first visit to the Order of Malta Clinic Northern California at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland on Sept. 13, telling those who have been involved in its nine-year lifetime that their work exemplifies the order's mission.

Albrecht von Boeselager is the latest distinguished visitor to the clinic this year. Cardinal Raymond Burke, its patron, dropped by in March. When Andrea Pozo stepped into the clinic on May 31, she became its 25,000th visitor.

Order of Malta Northern California Clinic

At the Cathedral
of Christ the Light

Where: 2121 Harrison St., Oakland

Clinic hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and
9 a.m.-noon Friday

Appointments: 510-587-3000

The clinic serves uninsured adults
Pozo's visit is at the core of the clinic's mission. She is among the uninsured adults the clinic has served since opening its doors in 2008. No one has been charged a cent. No insurance has been billed. No government agency — federal, state, county or city — has been asked for money.

Von Boeselager was accompanied by representatives of the order's Global Fund for Forgotten People. The Oakland clinic was among the projects worldwide to receive a St. John's Day Grant from the fund.

The grand chancellor was on the third leg of a North American journey that took him from New York, Ottawa and Oakland, before his return to his home base in Rome.

The visitors were welcomed by John Christian, the clinic's president, who gave them an overview of the clinic's work. In just 1,800-square-feet, on the corner of Harrison and 21st streets, the clinic operates with a small paid staff, and many volunteers.

"By and large this clinic is operated by a network of 25 physicians," he said, noting the number had doubled over the past two years. They represent 20 specialties.

"One of our newest members is a Jesuit priest, ordained last year," Christian said. "He's known as Dr. Javier Diaz on the clinic floor; upstairs he's Father Javier Diaz."

The volunteer medical staff includes 35 nurses and nurse practitioners.

Von Boeselager asked if patients are asked to pay a token amount for the services. In some countries, it is customary to do so to preserve the patients' dignity.

"It's all free," Christian said.

The grand chancellor was assured by the local representatives that the patients' dignity is respected at a level not often associated with free clinics.

Appreciation in the form of handwritten notes grace a wall seen by medical staff members.

A $100 bill appeared once, Christian said, from a patient grateful for speedy help that assisted him in accepting a job offer.

Von Boeselager asked about the patients who are served. He asked, "The majority are migrants?"

"It's often said Oakland is the most diverse city in the United States," Christian told him. He said the clinic sees a significant number of clients from Asian, African and Eastern European countries.

About 60 percent come from ZIP Codes within Oakland.

Dr. Tom Wallace, a neurologist who joined the Order of Malta this year, told Von Boeselager they see patients with diabetes, hypertension and degrading eyesight. When they see patients who require care beyond the clinic's capacity, they are able to refer them.

"Thank you for what you do," von Boeselager told the local representatives. "Please keep me informed."

After a tour of the medical clinic, von Boeselager was escorted to the Pope Francis Legal Clinic by Tom Greerty, the founding director of the two-day-a-week clinic that provides free legal consultation.

Greerty asked von Boeselager to sign the book of clients on a special page for visitors. He signed below Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, who had signed the book on the clinic's dedication day last year. Both Bishop Barber and Very Rev. George Mockel, vicar general of the diocese, are members of the Order of Malta.

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