Islamic Center Hosts Free Clinic

Islamic Center Hosts Free Clinic

Carla Lewis had never been in a mosque before and she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Because I’m a Christian, and you hear all this propaganda that if you’re not Muslim, you’re their enemy,” she said.

Still, she entered, a little confused for a moment about where to go and how to behave until someone showed up to assist her.

“Are you here for the clinic? Let me show you the way,” someone offered.

Lewis, a 47-year-old truck driver, said her private health insurance lapsed in April after she took a leave of absence to care for her ill child. She needed a physical exam before returning to work, so a flier in the library piqued her interest.

It was advertising a free medical clinic at the Islamic Center of Tucson.

“I came and found it was not what I thought,” Lewis said. “People were very friendly and professional and welcoming.”

When organizers first conceived of the clinic, they hoped to reach people who, like Lewis, never had direct experience with Tucson’s Islamic community.

The clinic was the brainchild of Yahya Nomaan, 20, a pre-med student at the University of Arizona and the son of a pediatrician.

With hostile rhetoric about Islam growing to a crescendo in recent years over the building of mosques in communities from New York to California, Nomaan saw the need to highlight the contributions of Muslim Americans.

“You go to any hospital, you have a Doctor Khan, you have a Doctor Hassan,” he said. “Clearly medicine is our forte.”

So Nomaan and his father, Dr. Mohammed Nomaan, decided to start a free monthly medical clinic. The Islamic Center of Tucson offered its space, and local doctors from the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America volunteered to staff it.

During a recent clinic, the younger Nomaan and other volunteers circled the brightly lighted waiting area, taking vital signs and making small talk with patients.

Maryam Tanbal – an earnest 17-year-old with a disarming smile – greeted patients and gave them the requisite paperwork.

She said sometimes people seem a little hesitant when they first arrive because they’re unsure how to behave in a mosque. They wonder if they need to take their shoes off, for example.

She assures them that while shoes should not be worn in the rooms where prayers are held, the clinic is located in a separate area, and patients should keep their shoes on.

October marked the sixth clinic at the Islamic Center, and the younger Nomaan said the operation goes smoother each time. In the past, tiny glitches have arisen – one of the rooms in the mosque was locked, or a blood pressure cuff broke.

“Today was the first clinic with no hiccups,” Nomaan said. “We have God to praise for that.”

If you go

• Clinic location: Islamic Center of Tucson, 901 E. First St.

• When: Last Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Contact: 329-1428

• Cost: Free

• Appointments: Recommended but not required

Anissa Tanweer is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com or 573-4117.

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