Shifa Community Clinic Fundraiser in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui

The Shifa Community Clinic ( http://shifaclinic.org/ ) is a unique medical facility located adjacent to the Downtown Sacramento Muslim Mosque. It can trace its origins back to the year 1994 when two area physicians decided to operate a clinic for disadvantaged and uninsured patients (mainly from within the Sacramento Muslim community), located in a venue provided by the Downtown Mosque (one of the oldest in the United States). But good ideas cannot remain isolated.

In the year 2000 Dr Shagufta Yasmeen and two medical students, Nasser Abdo and Mahmoud Traina from the University of California, Davis encouraged by members of the local Islamic community led by Bashir Choudary and Dr Najme Minhaj formalized the arrangement and the Shifa Community Clinic officially came into being. Subsequently, in June 2005 Shifa became officially affiliated with the area’s University of California Davis School of Medicine in a three-part agreement which included the Muslim Mosque Association. It still caters to the disadvantaged and the uninsured but has a much wider reach today and also caters to communities other than Muslims, South Asians and Middle Easterners, including African Americans, Hispanics and other Asians.

Since the Shifa Community Clinic is a non-profit, student-run medical facility, it relies on donations and volunteers to stay open. On November 22 nd it held its 12 th Annual Fundraising Banquet to replenish its resource base. The venue was the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel located within the UC Davis Main Hospital complex. Over 100 people attended this multi-ethnic and religious gathering which started with guest arrival and social mixer along with a silent auction.

Welcoming everyone, Dr Shagufta Yasmeen reflected on the vision of Shifa Community Clinic and detailed its activities over a one-year period (July 2013 to June 2014). During this period of 73 operational days, there were 978 medical visits, 112 new patients added with a total number of 3,328 patients under the Shifa umbrella. To name a few here, Shifa offers a wide variety of health services including primary care, a women’s clinic, chronic care, an annual Retinopathy clinic, dermatology, breast health including free mammograms, health education for women, colorectal cancer screening and a prescription assistance program. Dr Yasmeen also detailed the funding sources for the clinic including amounts from last year’s fundraiser, grants, business donations, student fundraisers and donations from patients. She also elaborated on several other aspects of the Shifa model including education, the partnership with UC Davis, community outreach and engagement, capacity building (expansion of the clinic), community board and community partnerships.

After dinner it was time for youth to step forward and Manjot Sandhu presented the findings of a survey, a group effort on “Covered California Awareness in the Middle Eastern and South Asian Community”. In this thoughtful and in-depth study, it was found that more work needed to be done to spread knowledge about the “Affordable Care Act” which everybody still knows as Obamacare in the communities surveyed. It appears that very few people are aware of the differences in the plans offered under this act and not too many know whether they can afford it or not. And that the solution might just be investing in funding culturally conscious marketing, developing educational interventions and in training select members of the community to spread the word.

A group of four student volunteers next shared the mission and the vision of the organization with us and where things stand today. This was followed by a rendition of Urdu poetry “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua” (A prayer comes to my lips) originally written by Iqbal and presented here by Nainwant and Pranaya. And last but not least under the segment of “Empowering Tomorrows Healthcare Leaders” Fatima Awan and Hammad Khan shared not just their own Shifa experiences with us but in the process proved that young people today are just plain sharp!

Next, event emcee Talat Siddiqui introduced keynote speaker Imam Muhammad Abdul Azeez MD to both inspire us and conduct the fundraiser. Imam Azeez said that he was privileged to be here. He spoke about the healing powers of God and those that serve the Lord through serving his people. He said that in serving others you are not just helping them but yourselves. He added that the work that Shifa is doing beats the efforts of many Imams put together!

After the fundraiser three individuals from the community were recognized for their support of Shifa and the community over the years. Dr Robert Rudas, Dr Alireza and Mr Ameer Alsawaf were given plaques of appreciation on behalf of Shifa. Dr Rudas was generous with his comments and pointed out that Shifa was a great way to counter bigotry against Muslims in this country today.

Bashir Choudry, Najme Minhaj, Basim Elkarra and Shazia Bashir also took the opportunity to say a few words while the concluding remarks were presented by Dr Shagufta Yasmeen. Approximately $37,000 was collected according to last estimates during this fundraiser.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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