With the hope of making medical care more accessible to the sick and needy, a group of doctors, nurses and pharmacists from various hospitals and clinics in Taiwan stepped forward to establish a Tzu Chi medical association in 1996. This later developed into the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) in 1998. Today, there are TIMA members in 23 countries worldwide.

Tzu Chi was founded by Master Cheng Yen in 1966. Through her ten years of experience in helping the needy and sickly, the Master realized that sickness often leads to poverty. While material assistance could provide temporary relief to aid recipients, medical care and treatment could help prevent or eradicate poverty. As such, TIMA, which echoes the aspiration of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine, was established.

TIMA envisions to "curing people, treating illnesses and healing minds", in addition to inspiring and promoting a medical culture with humanistic values of gratitude, respect and love.

As volunteer healthcare professionals, TIMA members render various services according to the needs of the community, irrespective of race and religion. They also bring their expertise, love and care to the impoverished and sick, who have little access to medical facilities.

Currently, TIMA has 12 mission teams in Taiwan, and Chapters in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Besides regular medical services, TIMA members also work together with Tzu Chi volunteers to provide free medical care to disaster victims. As at 2015, TIMA has provided over 2.5 million free treatments to people in 49 countries, with contributions from 16,494 medical professionals and volunteers.