Alphabetized patients’ files occupy long rows of stuffed shelves that line the walls of her humble office.
Furnished with few cabinets, some small desks and low stools, the second-floor quarters comes off warm, friendly – the kind of modest place where the good doctor embraces her steady stream of patients.
Dr. Twe Sui is comfortably at home here. Forty years of practice. All in one place, a clinic on Kent’s East Hill.
She offers no apologies for her simplistic record keeping, or for the organized clutter that’s part of the decor.
The workplace reflects the genuine, practical, no-nonsense nature of the 82-year-old family practitioner.
What you see is what you get.
“I chose to be e-illiterate,” Sui said without hesitation. “I do everything in writing … (one who) doesn’t Google, YouTube or Facebook.
“I have lots of patients who come in and say, ‘My doctor doesn’t even look at me. He’s too busy filling out his electronic health records,’ ” she said. “That doctor-patient relationship is gone.”
Sui is a throwback, a compassionate woman who has done her time. She plans to retire at the end of the year, leaving behind a rewarding career of treating patients of all walks, especially the disadvantaged, those who cannot afford adequate health care, those who have little or no benefits.
In today’s changing, complex times, this candid doctor of yesterday has nearly finished her stay. The emotional debate and political tug-of-war over national health care coverage have fractured the country and frustrated doctors and care providers.
“You know who rules our country?” the doctor asked. “Insurance companies and greedy CEOs.”
As she steps away from a long career, Sui isn’t overly optimistic about the future of health care in America. The medical profession has lost its way as it contends with a shortage of doctors, specialists and nurses.
“If we had more doctors like me, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Sui insisted, “because we are here to serve our patients.”
Long before arriving in Kent, Sui followed a long and interesting road. She graduated from medical school in her native Burma in 1959 and worked as a missionary doctor in Nepal.
She and her husband, who worked as a diplomat, raised four children. They lived in France and other countries before immigrating to the U.S. in 1977, settling in Kent, where Sui established her practice. Her husband passed away in 1997.
A devout Christian, Sui says being a doctor has been her calling all along. Her son, Manny, says she got into the profession for all the right reasons.
“It’s her faith and upbringing,” Manny said of her mother’s special qualities. “She does more than her fair share. … She has a mission, which is to heal … She doesn’t even like it when you call it her business. She calls it her mission.”
To this day, Sui considers herself a missionary doctor willing to extend a helping hand or fight for her patients’ rights.
Many of her patients are poor, unsupported.
“Sometimes they didn’t have breakfast or lunch, and I have to give them money out of my own pocket so they can go and buy (a meal),” Sui said.
At times, the doctor has provided bus fare for patients.
Sui even went as far as to visit the Department of Social and Health Services office, pleading for the agency to help one of her desperate patients.
“My patient had just lost his job, and he didn’t have any money to pay for his blood pressure medicine. (I told them) ‘if he dies because of it, I am going to sue all of you,’” she said.
“My motto is bad things happen to good people because they don’t have the guts to stand up and say this is wrong,” Sui said. “So I’m not afraid of that. I’m authentic, not afraid to say this is right and this is wrong. There’s no room for superficiality.”
What sets Sui apart from other doctors is her willingness to do more for her patients. She was twice chosen Best Physician in the Kent Reporter’s Best of Kent reader poll.
“She’s very knowledgeable, committed and a good person and good teacher who really cares about her patients,” said Galina Volovina, Sui’s medical assistant for 17 years.
Added Palli Tairova, a medical assistant who has worked with Sui for seven years: “She cares and educates patients in all aspects. … She goes through each detail with the patient and takes more time than any other doctor. Sometimes we have to knock (on the door) and pull her out (of the examination room).”
Even in retirement, Sui intends to continue serving her community. It’s just her nature.
“My mission in life is to serve my God. I don’t seek the applause of human beings because I like to serve my community,” she said. “Doctors are supposed to wash dirty feet.
“I love what I do. I love the patients I serve,” she continued. “I pray for everybody’s spiritual health, emotional health and mental health.”