GEORGIA – Seeking to help their community, five senior Muslim students in the University of Georgia have volunteered to create Shifa Clinic Athens, which kicked off earlier this year as one of many clinics around the nation open to cater for under-privileged and under-insured members of the community.
“We reached out to a bunch of physicians in Athens, and we got a lot of ‘nos’ and ‘good lucks’ but eventually we found a good core group of physicians,” Hamzah Ali told The Red & Black on Tuesday, July 11.
“It took a full year to gather resources, find the property, fill out paperwork for the state, get insurance, and get approval by the city.”
Shifa Clinic Athens is a branch of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a national community of Muslims in America.
The team, which includes Ali, Faiz Saulat, Vraj Patel, Abdus Subhan and Ummar Jamal, began organizing the clinic in April 2016 as sophomores and continued working for the next year until the clinic opened in March 2017.
The clinic is open every Saturday, and offers a variety of health care options aside from primary care, such as psychiatry and neurology.
Ali said he and the other students involved are all members of the board running Shifa Clinic, along with three physicians, Fareha Rahim, Adeel Rahman and Zaighum Butt.
The clinic also has around 20 volunteers and nine total physicians volunteering.
Ali said he and Saulat originally developed the concept, and involved the other students as the project grew.
“We wanted to step out of the bubble and try something an average student probably wouldn’t think about doing,” Ali said.
“The goal was to be a part of the solution to access to health care at an earlier age than what we’d typically be allowed to. We wanted to show others that you can take a step now to try and make a difference.”
While funding for the clinic is provided by the volunteering physicians, and insurance is provided by the State of Georgia, Ali said the team is hosting an open house on August 26 to both spread the word about their clinic and raise money for supplies.
“The physicians are generous enough to pay for the utilities and rent,” Ali said.
“We’re having a sort of open house, and we’re going to invite officials from the hospitals and the mayor is going to be there. We’ll hopefully make it a big event.”
Both Ali and Saulat are excited to see what the future holds for Shifa Clinic Athens.
“It’s bigger than what we ever thought it would be, and it’s worked out pretty quickly too,” Ali said.
“Having to balance this with other priorities is very difficult. We definitely bit off more than we could chew but we’re really happy with the way it turned out.”