SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA - In San Bernardino, one the poorest cities in California, a group of Muslim doctors runs a medical clinic that provides health-related services to poor residents of the city.
The Al-Shifa Clinic was founded in 2000. Al-Shifa is an Arabic word for "cure."
A majority of the patients are non-Muslims.
"We are Muslims and we want to help the community," says Dr. Talat Khan, director of Al-Shifa Clinic. "It does not have to be the Muslim community because most of the people we see are Hispanic and people of other faiths. We want to help them out. Our religion tells us that we should take care of under-served."
Most of the doctors in Al-Shifa are naturalized U.S. citizens who came to the United States as refugees or immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and elsewhere.
To tell you the truth, doctors are trained to help people regardless of their religion or what language they speak," says Dr. Khwaja Ali Sidiqui, a physician who volunteers at the clinic. "When you visit a doctor, you are his [or] her patient. We treat our patients regardless of what faith they belong to.
The clinic has 16 examination rooms, and treatment extends to internal medicine, pediatrics, mental health, neurology, obstetrics gynecology, preventive medicine and dentistry. There's also a well-equipped lab.
The volunteer doctors help new medical graduates who work as interns at the clinic. One of these graduates is Eman Musili, a newly arrived immigrant from Syria.
"I also enjoy talking to the patients because a lot of them who come here, they are desperate for help because most of them do not have insurance," Musili says. "Actually, they have a lot of things going on and they need help. So that is a good experience for a medical physician."
For the patients who depend on the Al-Shifa, the clinic is a big help and a bit of a miracle.
"It is amazing," says patient Lynne Missi. "I don’t know how they do it — except that the doctors do offer their services free. They volunteer and that is amazing. They are really, really nice people to do that. I think 'Wow! Who would do that?'"
Al-Shifa is charity-based so some patients worry about losing services if the clinic runs out of funding. Doctors say that as long as donors come forward, they will be able to sustain the facility and continue provide people with much-needed services.