CAIRO - Giving back to the community's less fortunate, a group of Muslim American doctors have opened a clinic in New York to provide free medical services to poor Americans.
We're so fortunate because we have wonderful lives in the area, great jobs and we wanted to give back, Dr. Mustafa Awayda, the clinic's volunteer medical director who also works at the Syracuse VA Medical Center, told The Post-Standard.Seeking to help fellow Americans, a group of Muslim doctors volunteered to open the Rahma Health Clinic to provide free medical services for poor residents in New York's Syracuse city.
The doctors formed a non-profit group, the Muslim American Care and Compassion Alliance, and purchased a vacant former doctor's office in the city.
Applying for opening the clinic, it took several months before receiving the certification from the state under Article 28 of the state public health law.
Though the clinic runs entirely by volunteers, it had to comply with the same regulations that apply to hospitals and other major health facilities.
Our policy on infection control alone is 59 pages, Awayda said.
Despite the difficulties, the Muslim doctor believes that the extra work involved in becoming certified was worth it.
It's great to be able to say we passed all the scrutiny and regulations of the state, he said.
Volunteered doctors say they were moved by Islamic teachings which place a strong emphasis on giving back to the community's less fortunate.
We as Muslims want to give back to our community, said Dr. Mohamed Khater, who is president of the Islamic Society of Central New York and serves as chair of the clinic's board.
The US is the world's richest nation but the only industrialized democracy that does not provide health care coverage to all of its citizens.
The US spends more than double what Britain, France and Germany do per person on health care.
But it lags behind other countries in life expectancy and infant mortality, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The free Muslim clinic aims to raise awareness among uninsured Americans on the importance of routine check-ups.
We tell people, Come get your sugar checked. Come get your blood pressure checked. Do something before you end up in the hospital,' Awayda said.
Last summer, the Muslim doctors at the clinic and people from the neighborhood planted a fruit and vegetable garden with the aim of teaching people the importance of healthy food in a neighborhood known with many fast food restaurants.
Along with doctors and nurses, the clinic also helps people find out if they are eligible for Medicaid or other health insurance programs.
The clinic also helps patients who need prescription medications find low-cost generic drugs.
Though most of the Muslim doctors who started the clinic are members of the Islamic Society, the clinic is not a religious organization.
The clinic is open to everyone and seeks volunteers of all faiths, he said.
Magda Bayoumi, Khater's wife, said the clinic hopes to eventually expand to include dentistry and other services.
We're hoping for the moon, but we've started out taking small steps, she said.
Failure is not an option.
This is not the first time Muslim doctors provide free medical help for patients.
Last year, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America established a clinic providing free dental, ophthalmologic, pediatric and pain-management services on Sundays at the Balal Mosque on St. Louis University's campus.Another clinic was opened by the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, in partnership with Volunteers in Medicine in October.