Mosque continues tradition of free medical care

Mosque continues tradition of free medical care
October 09
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Clinic volunteers (from left) Steve Malik Daniels, Corrinna Austin, Sadou Ibrahim, Omer Zuilfiqar, Muhammad Syed, Asiyah Rodriguez and Elizabeth Fleming. (Below) Jahan and Tahsin Choudhury with Dr. Muhammad Syed.)

DSC_0024For almost three decades, the Community Mosque has offered a free medical clinic. Today – thanks to volunteer doctors from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center – that tradition continues.

In the late 1980s, the Mosque started running a free mobile clinic that visited public housing communities. The clinic became stationary in the 1990s, inviting patients into the mosque itself for treatment. From its inception up until last December, Dr. Muhammad Athar provided care to the patients who came to the clinic, which was the sole source of medical care for some. With Athar’s retirement last year, the once-a-month clinic ceased to exist. In an effort to keep the clinic afloat, Imam Khalid Griggs sent word out that local doctors were needed.

Imam Khalid Griggs

Imam Khalid Griggs

“I thought it was a valuable resource to not just the Muslim community but the community in the neighborhood where we are,” said Griggs, whose mosque has long been based on Waughtown Street in the city’s Southside “…Whatever it is that we could do and make available to the community for free, we needed to do that.”

Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical responded. Three months ago, Dr. Muhammad Syed and Dr. Omer Zuilfiqar opened the clinic anew. Patients are seen two Saturdays a month at the mosque. No appointment is needed, and patients are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. The free service is for those with no health insurance.

Patients lined the hallway of the mosque on Saturday, Sept. 27 to wait to be seen.
Zuilfiqar said there are still many who lack insurance, despite the Affordable Care Act. He said it’s still common for those who have little means, especially non-citizens who don’t qualify for help under the ACA, to be uninsured.



“I was seeing a lot of people in the hospital that did not have the resources and were really suffering from their chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure because they didn’t have good outpatient care.” said Zuilfiqar, who is doing his residency at Baptist Medical. “To me, it makes more sense to be proactive in the community and take care of these issues before they become severe issues down the road.”

Chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are the focus of the clinic. Basic tests are conducted at the client. Those needing more involved lab work are sent to the nearby Southside United Health Center, where a Baptist Medical lab is set up and will run the tests free for clinic clients.

By helping patients manage chronic conditions, stroke and other medical problems can be avoided and trips to the emergency room can be reduced, the doctors said.

“It’s a very essential community outreach program that pays in the long-run; the eventual goal is to keep (them) out of the hospital,” said Syed, an attending physician in the Hospitalist Department at Baptist. “If you address the small problems in the clinic, they won’t end up crashing in the ER.”

Baptist provides the clinic with funds and equipment, including its two examination tables and scale. Patients are encouraged to bring a list of their medications and a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license.

Jahan and Tahsin Choudhury with Dr. Muhammad Syed.

Jahan and Tahsin Choudhury with Dr. Muhammad Syed.

Tahsin Choudhury heard about the clinic while attending regular Friday afternoon prayer at the mosque. He took his mother, Jahan, to let doctors check her cholesterol. Both are natives of Bangladesh. While he speaks English, she only speaks Bengali. He acted as a translator when his mom saw Dr. Syed. It wasn’t unusual at the clinic, which draws many immigrants, some of whom only speak their native tongues.

Choudhury said it would cost $1,000 a month to insure his mom, and the cost of the cholesterol lab work she needs is about $850 for those without coverage. Mother and son say those prices are out of their range.

“We’re so glad they’re doing this thing here,” he said of the clinic. “Not that many people can afford that type of money.”

Volunteer nurses and staff also help the clinic run smoothly. Elizabeth Fleming, who does administrative work at Baptist, checked in patients on a recent Saturday. It was her second time volunteering since the clinic relaunched. She believes the work of all of the volunteers is making a difference.

“I mean, when you’re sick and you don’t have insurance, what do you do?” she said.

The next clinic is Oct. 11 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at The Community Mosque, 1419 Waughtown St. For more information, visit

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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