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New health clinic founders want to give back to community

Tom Magnarelli/WRVO

The grand opening of a new health clinic on Syracuse's South Side was held over the weekend. A group called the Muslim American Care and Compassion Alliance started the free clinic with the goal of treating preventable diseases in an under-served community.

Dr. Mustafa Awayda is a physician at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Syracuse, but on Saturdays, he volunteers his time at the Rahma Health Clinic, a nonprofit he and a group of mostly Muslim Americans started as an act of charity.    

“In terms of employees we are all volunteers.  The clinic is one hundred percent free, we accepts all patients, those who have insurance, the first thing we tell them, we absolutely don't bill, we don't have a billing office," said Awayda.

The group identified Syracuse's South Side as an area with a population at high risk to be admitted to the hospital for preventable illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.   

"It costs a lot less in prevention to have proactive care than reactive care and sometimes a lot of patients' only venue is an emergency room," said Awayda.

Financing for the clinic has come from fundraisers and the board members themselves, most of whom like Dr. Awayda, are immigrants themselves.

"We've been so blessed how much this country gave us and gave to our kids.  And especially recently faced with so many stereotypes and one way it's how we can give back, how we can give a different image that's always being portrayed."

While the Rahma Health Clinic was started as an act of the founders’ Islamic faith, the clinic does not impose its religion on its patients, and is meant to serve all residents of the neighborhood. The clinic currently is just open on Saturdays and Wednesday evenings, but hopes to expand their operating hours to six days a week.