Updated at 9:10 p.m.
A memorial was held tonight to remember Thomas Sage Hand, a second-year UC Irvine medical student and human rights volunteer who was killed in a Long Beach motorcycle crash Sunday.
"Tommy's goal to make health care a right will be carried on through Prime-lc," a classmate one year ahead of him wrote in a Tuesday night e-mail. "And his memory will forever live on through his work during his short time with us."
Hand, 26, allegedly ran the red light on a motorcycle as he traveled Eastbound on Seventh Street at Redondo Avenue, Long Beach police said. The 46-year-old Long Bean woman who's car struck Hand was not injured nor cited in the crash at about 5 p.m., according to police.
A Long Beach officer witnessed the crash from a distance away and rushed to the intersection but a police spokeswoman said that Hand died at the scene.
On Tuesday, Hand was remembered as a selfless, committed medical doctor in training, who believed healthcare was a human right; he had already volunteered with aid for the poor in the Bay area, locally and abroad, according to a friend who posted a note on Patch. Hand was also profiled by UC Irvine last year in a showcase of his private and school efforts to help others.
"He was amazing," Nancy Koehring, Chief Administrative Officer for Medical Education at UC Irvine School of Medicine, said Tuesday afternoon. She was preparing for the 7 p.m. memorial on campus and said Hand's parents would be attending.
"The University of California medical school community lost one of its brightest lights, ironically one that glimmered so powerfully toward the creation of a system of healthcare that would serve all peoples equally," Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of the school of medicine, wrote in an e-mail about Hand's death. It was titled "Life and Sadness."
"Thomas Sage Hand left us on that night, much to the grief of all who knew him well but even more so, much to the detriment of all who could have come to know him as healer, healthcare activist, and visionary," Clayman continued. "To those unaware of his accomplishments to date, the foregoing might appear to be hyperbole in the face of tragedy -- but such is truly not the case. In his brief span of 26 years, Tommy Hand gave back as much as he received from the systems of education through which he traveled."
The following is a profile written in March, 2010 about Hand by Tom Vasich of UC Irvine's Communications office. We reprint it with his permission, and will update Hand's biography since then:
For Tommy Hand, the phrase “think globally, act locally” is only half true. He wants to make a difference worldwide.
Since his high school days in Sacramento, the first-year UC Irvine medical student has been an exchange student in Costa Rica; spent a college semester abroad in Spain, where he volunteered in a Toledo hospital; served as a Spanish-language HIV/AIDS educator for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation; taught English to immigrant children in Pomona; and been a healthcare social worker in New York City’s Spanish Harlem.
Along the way, Hand, 25, discovered that medical professionals – with their specialized skills, ethical duties, credible voices and access to vulnerable populations – are in a unique position to monitor, defend and support human rights.
“Working in Spanish Harlem convinced me that I’m going down the right road,” he says. “I was representing Puerto Rican and Dominican clients with health and insurance issues, and I saw them being treated like dirt. And that’s not OK.”
To broaden his activist commitment, Hand founded the UCI chapter of Physicians for Human Rights, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that mobilizes those in the medical field to fight human rights abuses around the globe while working to promote health and justice.
So far, the group has about 20 active members, he says. In January, it hosted “Flex Your Muscles for Haiti,” a student arm-wrestling competition that raised $3,000 for earthquake relief. The chapter also plans to host speakers and documentaries on the connection between healthcare and human rights.
Hand is enrolled in UCI’s Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community, which is intended to produce culturally sensitive and medically competent physician-leaders who can address the distinctive healthcare issues facing Latinos.
“When I applied for medical school, PRIME-LC stood out,” he says. “This program represents everything I want to do. It’s energizing to be around so many people who share the same values and goals.”
While studying medicine at UCI, Hand hopes to take one semester off to join humanitarian efforts in areas of the world victimized by natural disaster or a public health crisis, and he’ll be doing a clinical rotation with PRIME-LC classmates in Mexico during his fourth year.
As for the future, “I’d like to spend nine months of the year working for an organization like Doctors Without Borders and helping people who have survived war crimes, mass migrations, genocide, torture or oppression,” Hand says. “Human rights has always been a hot-button topic with my family and has driven a lot of choices I’ve made.
“I believe healthcare is a human right, and for many people, having access to it is a life-and-death issue. Hopefully, I can make a difference for them.”