Two Missions, One Purpose 

By Transon Nguyen, PharmD 


Sister Marie Therese started the Lestonnac Free Clinic as a small Catholic clinic in 1979.  Under the leadership of Ed Gerber, its current executive director, Lestonnac has broadened its reach of care for the underserved to 14 active satellite clinics across Southern California.  There are still over ten more satellite clinics in the planning phase.    

Lestonnac provides Southern California’s uninsured and underserved residents with comprehensive medical care and over 20 specialty care services, including dental and vision services.  The clinic also is a part of the Community Referral Network (CRN), a web-based referral platform that facilitates relationships between community clinics and hospitals to bridge service gaps for underserved patients.  During the pandemic, the clinic has also been operating a mobile clinic, providing telemedicine, pharmacy, and nursing services to outlying communities.  

Lestonnac Free Clinic’s mission is to provide free healthcare services to low-income and uninsured residents in Southern California through the support of generous volunteers and donors.  American University of Health Sciences’ mission is to prepare future healthcare professionals “to make a positive impact on society through the provision of exceptional quality patient-centered care within the context of a global perspective of the human condition.” 

These two missions met at a critical crossroads during the recent ongoing pandemic when AUHS’s Pharmacy students started training at APPE rotations within several Lestonnac Free Clinic locations.   

AUHS is one of the primary supporters of the Lestonnac Free Clinic and its mission to offer healthcare to the needy, hoping that healthcare will be accessible to those who cannot afford insurance.  Dr. Elaine Nguyen started this partnership program with the help of Dr. Young Il Chang; Dr. Chang has been the key preceptor for AUHS at Lestonnac since the program’s inception.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, AUHS’s pharmacy students have been training under the tutelage of AUHS faculty in Orange and Norwalk, two of Lestonnac’s main locations for serving patients.  The two missions of LFC and AUHS have merged into a single purpose for AUHS students and future clinicians, to serve the underserved patient demographic.      

Lestonnac Free Clinic’s (LFC) unique organization model is supported by three core values: Leadership, Functionality, and Creativity.   AUHS prepares students through the five pillars (CARDS) of Christian Values, Academic Preparation, Research and Scholarship, Diversity, Service (or Social Responsibility).  These two sets of core values and character pillars are fundamental in the training of future healthcare professionals.  

Lestonnac provides the ideal environment for AUHS’s pharmacy students to train and study alongside medical providers, and nursing, pharmacy, and medical students from other universities.     

AUHS students recognize our role as healthcare providers in community development and social health service through Christian values.  Lestonnac, as a Catholic-based, non-profit clinic, provides the preparatory stages for the students to learn and serve the community.  

The old saying that ‘nothing happens in God’s world by mistake‘ holds true.  AUHS and Lestonnac’s missions cultivate these students and future healthcare professionals at the crossroads of the pandemic; nurture their empathy and compassion, train them professionally and scholarly.  Most importantly, this partnership gives the students a “taste of the noble privilege of community service” and works toward improving healthcare for everyone in our society.       


Dr. Elaine Nguyen is training P2 Pharmacist Intern Jennifer on how to perform a podiatric diabetes screening for patients at Lestonnac Clinic.


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