Ever since she was a young girl, Mary Chen always had a heart for service. Since the age of 12, Mary left home to work because her family of nine were gravely poor. With the money she earned as a child, she paid for her family’s expenses and forgo the chance to have an education.
I stopped studying and went out to work because my parents really had no money. – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
Growing up poor, Mary understood what it meant to live sparsely and she made it her life’s goal to always give back to underserved communities. In 2010, Mary was offered an opportunity to take over Wijaya International Medical Centre, a health facility with state-of-the-art cancer treatment equipment. She turned down the request many times since she clearly had no prior professional experience.
I was completely clueless about running a hospital back then, and I couldn’t speak fluent English. I knew not a single thing about medical devices and equipment, let alone managing a group of healthcare professionals. The idea was just a pie in the sky! – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
But after much persuasion and prayer, Mary said yes. With the help of her brother Aaron, an early investor and her childhood friend Victor Chia, Mary’s vision for the hospital would soon come to life. She wanted the health facility to serve those who can’t afford expensive cancer treatment and give them hope to live. That was how Beacon Hospital started.
I did not understand what a beacon is. They said at the seaside, you have the light [in] the darkeness. Suddenly, in my mind, I thought, okay lor, because when a person is first diagnosed with cancer, the world becomes very dark for him – there is no hope. So Beacon comes in to give light by providing the top doctors, machines and services. – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
A Beacon Of Hope
Statistics show that 1 in 4 Malaysians are diagnosed with cancer every year. It’s the leading cause of death in our country and being diagnosed with cancer is never easy to digest. While patients come to terms with the bad news, they are immediately faced with other burdens to carry such as the mounting cost of treatment and the long-term commitment that comes with it.
The reality is that cancer treatment burns holes in people’s pockets and digs financial graves for those already living in poverty.
Beacon Hospital has been operating with a mission to turn things around. With the aim of providing treatment to its patients – regardless of ailment, with an amount they can afford. Despite having high-end medical technology, Mary realised its insignificance if the poor couldn’t afford such treatments.
The poor patients told me, ‘You have everything [that is] top, top, top but they are not relevant to us’. So I came up with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes so they can have the same high-quality treatment as the rich. – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
Additionally, the hospital also provides transportation to and from the hospital, for patients who are on the subsidised cataract surgery scheme.
Only one eye each, so two people can benefit. – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
Putting profit-making in the backseat, Mary vows to run the hospital with love. As a result, the hospital has a number of really great Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and programs with the underserved in mind.
Aside from affordable treatment, Mary’s kind, warm-hearted personality shines through when she walks the hallways of the hospital. Healing is an emotional journey and Mary recognises the need for people to be heard and seen.
People cry because they can see we really help, not just talk. It is very important for patients to have peace. I always tell my staff to treat all of them like their brother, sister, mother or father. If we use our heart to treat, it is a different service already. – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
Health Starts From Within
Aside from providing comfortable care, Mary strives to provide healthy meals for her patients. Post-treatment, cancer patients at the hospital craved chicken, but they don’t dare consume commercial-bought chicken because of the mass production rearing involving hormones and antibiotics.
With a desire to feed nutritious food, Mary ventured into a new business in 2019. She set up Beacon Chicken to produce healthy chicken that is 100% naturally bred and fed without chemicals.
Beacon Chicken does not employ chemical-based or poor breeding practices to promote the growth of the chickens. Not only has Beacon Chicken been issued with Halal Certificate, but all batches of chicken samples are also regularly sent to independent laboratories for quality control testing to ensure stringent quality and standards are met, in addition to being certified as free of harmful contaminants, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals and heavy metals – Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital
Mary had no prior knowledge or experience in food production, but by wonderful chance, she met a Taiwanese PhD in Agricultural Science who selflessly shared the method of making high-quality, natural chicken feed. Mary shares that the concoction is a medley of healthy ingredients.
This feed formula comprises a fine combination of seaweed, moringa leaves, hawthorn, chrysanthemum, probiotics, essential microelements and vitamins, each of which has significant nutritional benefits in the production of healthy poultry products.- Mary Chen, Founder and executive director of Beacon Hospital[
Cognizant that all her ventures must give back in some way or another, Mary modelled the business to ensure that for every whole chicken sold, RM3 goes toward the hospital’s CSR Welfare Fund.
When Beacon Chicken first started, it only supplied to the hospital, but today, Beacon Chicken has opened its doors to the public, with the operation of 20 Beacon Mart outlets throughout Klang Valley.
The decision of one woman changed the trajectory of hundreds, if not thousands in their most dire and desperate situation through Beacon Hospital. She is also giving people better health through Beacon Chicken – because as the saying goes, ‘we are what we eat.’
Explore our sources:
- Options. (2019). Mary Chen built a cancer hospital to give poor patients same chance at treatment. Link.
- Beacon Chicken. (2022). The founder of Beacon Hospital, Mary Chen: I have a willing heart. Link.
- Beacon Chicken.(2022). The touching story behind Madam Mary Chen’s venture into Beacon Chicken. Link.