NEWS | April 24, 2020

UC Davis helps community health clinic purchase telemedicine equipment during pandemic


Thanks to the assistance of Moon Chen, Jr. a professor of hematology and oncology at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Health and Life Organization (HALO) in Sacramento have secured a $20,000 grant from the Bristol Meyers Squibb Foundation to purchase much-needed telemedicine equipment to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Moon Chen, Jr. Moon Chen, Jr.

The grant specifically aims to address COVID-19 issues for health care providers that work with vulnerable populations. HALO serves about 85,000 people at its nine health care clinics in Sacramento. Most of their patients are below the federal poverty level.

“HALO provides vital services to a diverse and vulnerable population in our community,” said Chen, who also is associate director for population sciences and community outreach and engagement at the cancer center.

“When I heard about the grant, I thought it could benefit them. They serve a lot of Asian, Latino and African-American patients. The staff reflect the demographics of the community. Many are bilingual and bicultural. They are very successful in serving hard-to-reach members of our community,” Chen said.

Chen reached out to J. Miguel Suarez, HALO’s clinical director. The two have worked together on other initiatives to target health disparities in Sacramento County, including “End B,” aimed at stopping the spread of hepatitis B, and a collaboration to enhance cancer prevention, screening and treatment for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The cancer screening grant, funded by Bristol Meyers Squibb Foundation, is the parent grant for the additional $20,000 funds HALO has received.

Suarez noticed that scheduled appointments at the clinics were plummeting as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March.

J. Miguel Suarez

“A lot of patients didn’t want to come to the health centers because of a fear of being exposed to the virus or because they were in lockdown due to the stay-at-home and physical-distancing orders,” Suarez said. “Many of our patients also are in the age group that is at higher risk for the disease and may have chronic conditions that need to be monitored.”

HALO leaders discussed the grant application and decided their best strategy during the pandemic would be to enhance their telemedicine capabilities. Chen applied for the grant on their behalf.

“We are grateful for the grant. It will allow our health care providers to work from a laptop, tablet, or cell phone and still have a patient encounter,” Suarez said. “And the patient has the option of how they want to have that interaction. They can come in or phone in, or download an app to their phone, laptop or tablet and have a face-to-face appointment.”

He anticipates there will be a learning curve but thinks it will be worth it because of the flexibility.

“It will allow us to maintain contact with our patients,” Suarez said.

About HALO

Health And Life Organization (HALO), Inc., is a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Public Benefit Corporation licensed in 2003 and designated as an FQHC-LA in 2008 to provide quality comprehensive primary healthcare to low income and ethnically diverse and underserved populations residing within the City of Sacramento. HALO operates nine Sacramento Community Clinics (SCC) serving as medical home about 85,000 patients, many of which are below the federal poverty level. With a staff of 51 providers they offer primary care, specialty care, podiatry, behavioral health, internal medicine, dermatology, OB/GYN, acupuncture, podiatry, chiropractic and dental services. We partner with organizations to provide professional and compassionate health. HALO’s Sacramento Community Clinics are committed to providing personalized, affordable, high-quality health services. Contributions can be made at:

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 10,000 adults and children every year, and access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 280 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Community Outreach and Education program addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the Center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis partners with hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California communities to offer patients expert care close to home.  For more information, visit