Cycling for a Cause

When third-year biological science majors Huy Do and Adam Truong began planning a cycling trip for winter break, they knew they wanted to combine their passion for biking with their passion for the medical field. But after brainstorming, their simple bike trip that started as a 15-day, 650-mile bike ride from San Diego to San Francisco, stopping to volunteer at free clinics along the way, transformed into a benevolent organization called Perpetual Medicine.

Originally, Truong and Do had planned on stopping at hospitals instead of free clinics; however, after meeting with Tipu Khan, a second-year resident at Harbor-UCLA County Family Medicine Residency Program, they had a change of heart. Truong was walking on Ring Road one day when he saw a flyer for a forum that Khan was holding. While neither student attended the forum, they both found Khan’s information and contacted him later to meet him in person.

Khan was doing work with empowering the free clinic system using grassroots movements from within the community and explained to Truong and Do that the free clinics struggled more financially than the hospitals and were more in need of volunteers.

In addition to Khan’s advice regarding free clinics, he also encouraged the riders to heavily document their journey and try to get sponsors. For this particular trip, Perpetual Medicine’s only major sponsor was Bike Religion, the on-campus bike shop, who either donated some bike parts and gave the team members a lower price on others.

Truong and Do joined fellow cycler friends Jared Wong, third-year biochemistry and molecular biology major, and Brett Lando and Michael Nguyen, third-year biological science majors. Together, with other non-cycling team members third-year biological science major Kevin Nguyen and third-year biochemical engineering major Alex Truong, the team began their journey in San Diego on December 16, where they volunteered at UC San Diego’s student-run free clinic.

From San Diego, the team continued up highway 101 to Northern California, but the journey was not without its difficulties.

“The hardest part that I remember, was the 30 miles between Los Angeles and the Simi Valley” Truong said. “It was 30 miles of uphill climbing, which we did not expect. We thought that 30 miles would be really easy but it was a lot harder than expected and we ended up having to ride during night which is really dangerous. We are actually pretty lucky we survived because we had a couple of close calls with cars.”

Do also mentioned a few technical difficulties involving tire problems as well as an incident where a cop car pulled the riders over at certain points on the 101 because there were areas that they were not allowed to bike on, forcing them to take side routes. Despite a few setbacks, Do affirmed that Perpetual Medicine accomplished everything that they had set out to do. They traveled to every clinic in their itinerary and rode the full journey. In total, they stopped at six free medical clinics along the way and eventually ended their journey at the St. Anthony Free Medical Clinic.

According to Perpetual Medicine’s mission statement, their goals in volunteering were primarily to raise awareness about free clinic systems and also about “the general health disparities” that the United States is currently faced with.

Their roles in volunteering differed from clinic to clinic. In one clinic, Perpetual Medicine painted a few old rooms while another clinic had them set up a volunteer center.

Of all of the accomplishments and proud memories of the trip, Truong said that one of his favorites was the final stop.

“Actually getting to San Francisco was a huge moment and it took a while to hit me that we were finally done and we were finally there,” Truong said. “To see this whole thing come together, with our crazy ideas here and there we definitely see how we could have improved [certain] things. But, to see an idea go all the way from thought to action is really unbelievable.”

Now, Perpetual Medicine seeks to continue to encourage community awareness and support for free clinics while advocating a healthy lifestyle through cycling.

“This is only the beginning,” Truong said.