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Muslim group to operate free clinic on Thursdays

By Anthony Gottschlich

Staff Writer

Saturday, April 12, 2008

DAYTON — Dayton Mercy Society, a Muslim group that promotes community service and authentic values of Islam, is opening a free health clinic for the uninsured.

Beginning May 1 and every Thursday thereafter, the clinic will operate from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Reach Out of Montgomery County clinic, 25 E. Foraker St., near Miami Valley Hospital.

"Our goal is to engage the Muslim community in outreach work and let people know that Muslims are part of this community," said Dr. Esam Alkhawaga, a psychiatrist and Dayton Mercy Society board member. "Most of us (at Dayton Mercy) are physicians and we felt as Muslims this could be the least we could do to give back to America for what they've done for us."

Reach Out, which operates its free clinic and pharmacy on Monday and Wednesday evenings, welcomes the extra help and clinic hours.

"Right now we're in a primary care crisis, where patients are coming straight from the emergency room to our clinic because there are no openings for primary care (at other hospitals and neighborhood clinics) in our area," said Sharon Sherlock, Reach Out's executive director. "It's worse than it's ever been."

Montgomery County has nearly 70,000 uninsured residents, about 13 percent of its population, local officials estimate. Roughly 47 million Americans lack health insurance, according to government statistics.

The Muslim clinic will serve adults and children, regardless of race or religion, Sherlock and Alkhawaga said.

At least 15 Muslim primary care physicians are already signed up and credentialed to work at the clinic, and around 50 specialists are willing to contribute, too, said Dr. Ramzieh Azmeh, a board certified internist and pediatrician who will work at the clinic.

Kickoff ceremony

The Dayton Mercy Society will hold an opening ceremony for its Muslim-run free clinic at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 13, at 25 E. Foraker St.

The nation's first Muslim congressman, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., will attend.

The clinic opens for business at 5 p.m. May 1.

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