Health Clinic Expands and Deepens Connections

The mission of the IMAN Health Clinic has always been to provide free, accessible and holistic health care to as many in the local community as possible.  The most important part of increasing the Clinic’s capacity to see patients is to increase the number of sessions that it is open to the public.  In this regard, the Clinic reached a new landmark last month: With the addition of a second session in the morning, Wednesdays have now become the first full day that the Clinic is open to patients.  This full day of patient interaction on Wednesdays will also serve as a template for other full days that are in the planning phase.

Of course this increase in capacity and timing requires us to increase human resources and improve the technical infrastructure of the Clinic.  Accordingly, in recent months, we have added three new volunteer physicians: Drs. Obaid Shafiq, Omar Ahmed and Muhammad Haque have all joined our team.  We have also added several new volunteers to help with other needs of the Clinic.  On the technical infrastructure side, we are working with several providers to implement a new medical billing system for the Clinic, in order to facilitate a more efficient operation.

Providing health care that is holistic and culturally competent also requires us to deepen our understanding of the specific needs and circumstances of the local community, and to look beyond treatment toward things such as education, prevention and making healthier choices available to local community residents.  Such deepening of both knowledge of and relationships within our community, while continuing to grow the capacity and timings of  the Clinic, has been my primary challenge, since starting as the Clinic’s Medical Director about 18 months ago.

Regarding this other main task of the Clinic, i.e. the deepening of the relationship with our community and its residents, there are three main areas we are focusing on in detail: determining needs, educating, and creating solutions.  As an example of determining needs specific to our community, the Health Clinic is conducting surveys around the issue of violence that is a prevalent part of the personal and social reality of local residents.  This survey is actually the start of a violence prevention initiative in the community.  In the area of community education, Clinic staff is working with Muslim Run: A Campaign for Health, Wellness and Healing to produce the health education component of that campaign.

Finally, and most importantly, the Health Clinic has several creative and collaborative projects underway to implement solutions and interventions for our community residents.  As one example, we have hired an intern to work on a grassroots strategy of health management outreach: The intern will pick several health conditions and for each condition form a small support group run by qualified personnel to better address the health concerns of patients alongside their Clinic visits.  In another example, Clinic staff is working with the South Side Healthcare Collaborative to improve access to specialty care in the area.

This is an exciting time to be part of the IMAN Health Clinic.  Due to planning and development on our part, and thanks to crucial support from our donors and partners, we are continuing to meet the growing demand for our health care and services.

IMAN’s Health Clinic is funded in part by Islamic Relief USA.

Faith Communities Stand Together against Violence

The violence that surrounds Chicago’s inner-city is well known and documented, though the reasons behind this violence are a little less well-understood and acknowledged.  While we are only in the beginning part of Spring, the level and amount of violence this year has been really high.  On the night of Monday, April 2, 2012, Ulysses Martin, father of three and longtime Chicago Lawn resident, became another victim of this violence when he was shot and killed. The details surrounding the shooting are unclear; it was initially reported by the Chicago Tribune after talking with police that Ulysses was shot after an altercation with another man. However, a local community organizer was told by one of the victim’s family members that Martin was shot during crossfire between rival gangs. The shooting took place on 61st and Washtenaw where Martin was hit; he would later collapse on 62nd and Fairfield in front of Fairfield Elementary School. That corner is also a block east and north of the IMAN office.

In response to this tragedy, which struck particularly close to home, IMAN, along with fellow community and religious organizations arranged a multifaith prayer and observance event to show solidarity with the family of brother Martin, as well as the greater Chicago Lawn community.  On Friday, April 6, 2012, three days after the deadly shooting, parishioners of St. Rita of Cascia, congregants of Temple Beth Shalom, and members of the local Muslim community all gathered where Martin had collapsed on the corner of Fairfield and 62nd.

The prayer and observance started with St. Rita’s parishioners making a Stations of the Cross prayer, led by Father Tony Pizzo, during the Good Friday procession, since April 6th was the Christian holy day of Good Friday.  It ended with a Jewish afternoon prayer led by Rabbi Funnye Capers from Beth Shalom.  In between, local Muslims assembled and made their weekly congregational prayer, or “jum’ah.”

The jum’ah prayer was led by Gemali Ibrahim, a community organizer with Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and someone very familiar with the neighborhood of Chicago Lawn. In his sermon before the prayer, Gemali spoke about the ramped-up violence in our community this Spring. He expressed a commitment on the part of the local Muslim community, in partnership with other religious communities, to take a stand against this violence.  This stand may take the form of spiritual, organizing, educational, or other kinds of efforts in collaboration with community leaders and residents.

On April 6, hundreds of people acknowledged and took a stand against the tragic way in which Ulysses Martin was shot and killed. In doing that, they also displayed the religious and racial unity that will be needed to lift our community out of the fear of constant violence.