By Rida Fozi
With healthcare becoming less affordable across the country, thousands dream of quality medical care that won’t break the bank. When Al-Shifa Medical Center partnered with ICNA Relief to launch a mobile clinic in Southern California, that dream became a reality.
“As a doctor I encounter many patients who are in dire need of care but can’t afford its hefty price tag,” says Khalid Memon, Director ICNA Relief Southern California and administrator at Al-Shifa Medical Center. “Al-Shifa Medical Center in San Bernardino was founded to address these very concerns, but we quickly realized that there were thousands of people we weren’t able to help because of our clinic’s fixed location. That’s when the idea of a mobile clinic was born.”
Al-Shifa teamed up with ICNA Relief, the social services branch of the Islamic Circle of North America, one of the largest grassroots American Muslim organizations in the United States. With a staff of trained physicians provided by Al-Shifa, and a van and numerous invaluable resources provided by ICNA Relief, the mobile clinic began to take shape.
The road to the clinic, however, was not without its bumps. ICNA Relief was the target of hate early last year when its fundraising dinner in Yorba Linda caught the attention of hate group Act for America. Protesters jeered at attendees, hurling insults at families and terrifying many of the young children entering the Yorba Linda Community Center.
“We were shocked by the allegations being made against ICNA,” says Salman Syed, President ICNA Southern California. “There were false claims about what the money would be used for, with some saying we support the Muslim Brotherhood and others saying we finance terrorism. But those funds were put towards ICNA Relief projects right here in Southern California, including this mobile clinic.”
The clinic provides primary medical care and operates out of a custom, fully equipped van that serves as an exam room for patients. The current staff includes Dr. Carla Toms, experienced street physician and assistant professor of family medicine at Loma Linda University, along with two certified medical assistants. Patients are treated to basic care, including blood pressure testing and general checkups, and, if needed, may be referred to a team of specialists at Al-Shifa Medical Center.
The clinic’s inauguration in late January was a huge success according to Memon. “We’ve received a great response from the community thus far. Many leaders came out in support of the clinic, and have advertised our services during their Friday prayers. People are looking forward to our visits to their mosques and other community venues, and we feel confident that by the grace of God we will be able to address their health concerns.”
The clinic currently operates on a weekly basis, visiting a different mosque in the Southern California area every Sunday. The clinic’s first stops to mosques in Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga were met with success, with an average of 16-17 patients being seen each week. The organizers eventually plan to visit other types of locations such as churches, public libraries, fairs and other community locations in order to reach a more diverse group of patients. They also hope to expand their services after a year by adding more vans and volunteers.
“This clinic, like all of ICNA Relief’s work, is about honoring Islamic values and following the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,” says Memon. “Many people have been misinformed about our faith, and don’t know that our Islamic principles drive us to do good. We hope that projects like this clinic can challenge those misconceptions.”
“God states in the Quran, ‘And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he had saved all of humanity.’ Prophet Muhammad also stressed the importance of helping others, saying that, ‘A person is not a Muslim who fills his stomach while his neighbor is hungry.’ We’ve worked in our community for years, and this project is just one of the many ways we choose to care for our neighbors and give back.”