Helping People

A place for care: Muslim leaders reach out to patients

Hollywood residents Janice McKinson and daughter Jalissa Liebenhaut meet with nurse Husna Oleed at the clinic.
Hollywood residents Janice McKinson and daughter Jalissa Liebenhaut meet with nurse Husna Oleed at the clinic. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

As she watched her children play, an uninsured Janice McKinson sat on a patient’s bed at the UHI Community Care Clinic, waiting for her doctor to enter the room.

The visit to the nonprofit clinic came with no cost for the 38-year-old woman. The organization aims to provide free healthcare to the uninsured.

“I love coming here,” said McKinson, who lives in Pembroke Pines. “They get me an appointment as quick as possible, and normally the wait isn’t very long. It’s great.”

Members of the South Florida Muslim community founded the Miami Gardens clinic in 2008, with the mission to provide medical care to those who are uninsured, do not qualify for governmental assistance, or who cannot afford private medical care.

“What we do here is primary care,” said Dr. Zafar Qureshi, the medical director of the clinic. “We’ve grown a lot with word of mouth. When people don’t have insurance, they come here and we arrange everything.”

Services include free HIV/AIDS testing, vaccinations, pap smears, diabetic programs and pediatric care. The clinic also works with pharmacies on getting patients reduced prices on prescription medications.

UHI is open six days a week and is operated by a team of volunteers, which includes 32 physicians. Once a month, volunteers from speciality fields such as psychiatry, cardiology and pediatrics offer their services at the clinic.

The clinic serves 30 to 35 patients a day.

About 80 percent of the clinic’s annual budget comes from its board members, said Shabbir Motorwala, a board member and the clinic administrator-outreach coordinator with UHI. The rest of the funding comes from donations and a grant from the Florida Blue Foundation.

Qureshi, who has his own private practice, says he hopes to see the UHI clinic grow and encourages other physicians to volunteer.

“I strongly believe in volunteer work,” he said. “We are doing this for the sake of humanity.

The clinic has relationships with area universities and is a teaching facility for students at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the FIU College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“It’s excellent exposure to them,” said Dr. Zeidan Hammad, an assistant professor at the FIU’s medical school. “The clinic offers good services that are very accessible.”

Abigail Cichon, who is studying to be a physician’s assistant at Keiser University, does her rotations at the clinic under Qureshi.

“It’s exciting to see this as an option in the community,”Cichon said. “As a student you want to be somewhere that people donate their time to help others. That’s why a lot of us choose this field.”

Qureshi encourages his students to continue volunteer work when they enter the workforce.

Although Qureshi has always had a passion to help people, he says his passion for giving back was made stronger following the 2008 death of his 12-year-old son, who had a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

“I want to make sure in this practice, and in my own practice, that any child with a chronic illness get whatever they need," Qureshi said.

Clinic administrator Motorwala said attendance at the clinic hasn’t dropped since the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

“The co-pays are so high that some people are finding that not enrolling and coming to the clinic is worth it for them,” Motorwala said. “We thought our enrollment would go down after the healthcare mandate.”

If you go

What: The UHI Community Care Clinic

Where: 4851 NW 183rd St., Miami Gardens

Hours: 8 a.m. -7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m.- 2 p.m Saturday

For more information: Call 305-620-7797 or visit www.uhimedicalclinic.com.

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