Area health professionals offer reasons why
By Talib I. Karim
Muslim Link Contributing Writer
Its 4am, your child has just fallen out of bed and injured his head and arm. An ambulance arrives and rushes you and your son to a hospital. The ambulance doors open, and you are greeted by a team of medical professionals wearing beards and hijab. Your son is wheeled into the emergency room and instead of screams, you are soothed by the sound of Quranic recitation and the fragrance of frankincense and myrrh.
You’ve not entered the twilight zone, instead you have entered a Muslim American hospital---a medical center that combines cutting edge modern “western-medicine” with alternative medical approaches of the East, including At-tib unnebuwia, ancient techniques used by the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).
Such a medical facility does not exist, at least not for now. However, there are significant numbers of Muslim physicians.
Available data suggests that the number of Muslim physicians may be even over-proportionate to our community’s total population in the U.S.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), as of 2006, there were 921,904 U.S. physicians. The AMA does not report on the religion of its members. However, it is known, that 113,585 or 12% of US physicians in 2006 were Asian and 32,452 or 3.5% of physicians were African American.
In addition, a 2006 Association of American Medical Colleges study entitled “Diversity in the Physician Workforce” indicates that Indians and Pakistanis account for the largest population of Asian physicians. And while many Indian physicians may be Hindus, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America boasts a membership of 7,000 current and retired physicians.
Looking at the African American population, the US Census bureau reports that there are an estimated 40.2 million African Americans. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee testimony given on October 14, 2003 suggests that as many as 2.4 million Muslims are African Americans, 5.9% of the total African American population. Based upon this figure, one can extrapolate that there are approximately 2000 Muslim physicians who are African American.
An analysis of all the above data suggests that more than 10% of American physicians are Muslim, while Muslims make up less than 3% of the total U.S. population. “Thus, its safe to say there is number of Muslim physicians is above average,” says Dr. Salim Aziz, a prominent heart surgeon with offices in Maryland and the District.
And why no Muslim hospitals?
“The question of building hospitals bring you to the issue of finances as well as the issue of whether we have the will and focus to build institutions in general,” says Dr. Aziz, a 30-year veteran of the medical profession.
Dr. Aziz states “If you look at the Jewish community for example, they got started by investing in academia. By giving money to non-Jewish colleges and universities, they [the Jewish community] paved the road for themselves to gain a foot-hold in teaching hospitals. This [involvement] gave them the experience to [eventually] launch their own hospitals. As a community, we have not invested in academic institution-building.”
To address this problem, our leaders must become more sophisticated and begin developing long-range plans for our masjid communities, opines Dr. Aziz. Next, Dr. Aziz asserts that Muslims must look beyond our ethnicities and work together as a single community. With the planning and collaboration, our community should be in a better position to grow our resources and then begin wisely investing these resources by building colleges, hospitals and other institutions, advises Dr. Aziz.
One such effort at cross-ethnic Muslim institution-building is evident in the Association of Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP). In 2004, this group started as a listserv merely to connect Muslim health professionals and students from various disciplines across North America. According to AMHP’s website, the purpose of the listserv was to serve as a forum for discussion on healthcare issues as well as a networking tool. The listserv allowed Muslims in the health care fields to unite and put an end to the fragmentation that had previously existed in the community, AMHP historical documents suggest.
The group’s first organizational meeting was held in conjunction with the 2004 Annual ISNA Convention in Rosemont, IL. Today, we have 1200 members says AMHP spokesperson Janice French, a Muslimah based in Maryland who works in the social work field. “At this point, we’re focused on research and assisting Muslim communities in forming “free” clinics.” These clinics are designed to serve both Muslim and non-Muslim patients alike who have no or little health coverage, states French.
According to French, there are less than a half dozen Muslim “free” clinics including one associated with the Muslim Community Center, a masjid community located in Silver Spring, MD. The MCC Clinic has been open for nearly five years now and was founded with a particular focus on serving patients who were here in the country on visitor visas states Iman Romodan, MCC Clinic General Manager. Since the clinic is also open to Muslims and non-Muslims, it employs Muslim and non-Muslim doctors, 18 in total, notes Romodan. In addition to treating patients themselves, Romodan states “the MCC Clinic also refers patients to a network of radiologists and other healthcare providers whose fees are reasonably priced, since many patients are quite frequently without medical insurance.”
AMHP’s French believes that Muslim clinics like the MCC “free” clinic can provide our community with the experience needed for us to eventually build Muslim hospitals.
“At this point, there are no Muslim hospitals, just many Muslims in Hospitals,” French acknowledges. However, as we start to work together more and overcome issues that separate us, we’ll begin to see Muslim owned hospitals and other institutions, states French.
Through greater Muslim unity, Muslim hospitals may be over the horizon and just in time to treat that Muslim child who injures himself by falling out of bed.