It’s a choice to dedicate your life to making the lives of others better. At Al-Bari Community Health Center, doctors are committed to their choice of making the lives of those most vulnerable a little easier. Al-Bari is the only completely free clinic in San Antonio, Texas. They don’t take government funding but they do open their doors to donations and those who need them most; the working poor, the uninsured or anyone who can’t afford to pay for medical care.
At Al-Bari they want to build bridges. “The Muslim religion tells us to take care of humanity,” said Dr. Suhaib Haq. He and his wife, Dr. Sarah Samreen, founded the clinic in an effort to reach out to the community and share their blessings. It’s a first step towards establishing a free hospital.
“Apart from my relationship with God, this is the most important thing in my life. The way I eat to feed my body, working here feeds my soul.”
Samreen, a family physician and women’s health specialist, said.
The ten Muslim volunteer doctors at Al-Bari understand the value of doing good for others. As Allah says in the Quran:
“whoever saves a soul – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely” [Noble Quran 99:7]
All of the doctors are Muslim and have their own practice where they work throughout the week. On the weekends they take time from family to give back to the community. They also donate any extra supplies and samples to the clinic which is open on Friday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Their specializations range from pulmonology to endocrinology.
The clinic serves any and all who pass through its doors and although half of the patients are Muslim, anybody is welcome.
Although Haq, a family and sleep medicine specialist, had hoped that the Affordable Care Act would fix the unaffordable cost of health care for the poor, when it didn’t, he knew something had to be done for the people who had nowhere else to go.
One patient who identified herself as Kathy, came to the clinic with an ear infection and sore foot. “I was homeless for a while and don’t have insurance,” she said. “My daughter’s in the Navy and I’m living with her now. But she can’t put me on her insurance.” Al-Bari was a blessing for medical care.
Dr. Haq explains,
“Health care is everyone’s right. God gave us health, and we are here to maintain that. There shouldn’t be a charge for that.”
The clinic’s building is scheduled to be torn down to build a new community center. The doctors are taking advantage of this time to expand their outreach by running a mobile clinic they can take to low-income neighborhoods.
“Some people look at us like, ‘What is your motive?’” said Dr. Nasir Syed, a pulmonologist.
“We want (the community) to understand we are here to help. At the end of the day, we are all humans. We carry the same heart and the same soul.”