There’s a jewel of community medicine right here in our county: the Muslim Community Center (MCC) Clinic — the largest multi-function, faith-based, safety net clinic in the country.
On Monday, a delegation of Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition supporters from our Islamophobia committee had the opportunity to tour that clinic and the rest of the community center. Our goal: to learn more about this great community resource hosted by the one of the pillars of the Montgomery County Muslim community, and share that with our supporters and the rest of the county.
We were met outside the clinic by the MCC public relations committee’s PR committee leader Tasnuva Khan and the clinic’s executive director Dr. Rashid Chotani, M.D. Dr. Chotani’s CV includes work at Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Defense Department; now he’s a tireless advocate, fundraiser, and grant proposal writer for the clinic, in addition to his physician’s duties. He was also a wonderfully friendly, enthusiastic, and informative host; we all thank him and Ms. Khan for spending so much time with us!
Stepping inside, we found a sparkling, handsome, modern waiting room, as nice as any I’ve ever waited my turn for a doctor’s visit in. The clinic boasts an online patient registration system for use at home or in the waiting room — and also has a dedicated kiosk set aside to help patients to enroll in “Obamacare” if eligible.
Starting with 53 patients in 2003, the Muslim Community Center Clinic served over 16,000 patients in 2016. In case you were wondering, over half of both the staff and their patients served are non-Muslim. Dr. Chotani had a nice story to tell about a patient who came back to thank him and the clinic for their excellent services, closing, “And you know, I’m not even Muslim.” Dr. Chotani says he replied, “You know what? Neither of your doctors were either: one is Orthodox Christian, the other is Buddhist. ”
The Muslim Community Center Clinic is a true community clinic, run with the help of grants, congregation donations, county and state subsidies, in-kind donations, and affordable patient payments. Dr. Chotani hopes to add a senior center and urgent care center in the years to come. Patients eligible for Montgomery Cares (adult residents of the county, no health insurance, low income) pay $25 per visit, others pay $50 or what their participating insurance plan supports. (The clinic does not refuse service to those unable to pay these fees which are covered by special charitable zakat or sadaqah donations)
The clinic offers a wide range of medical services including specialty services like optometry, dermatology, cardiology, oncology and more as well as social and preventive services including mental and colorectal health services, domestic violence programs/referrals, and patient referrals to other low-cost health providers when necessary. There’s even a courtesy shuttle to and from public transportation hubs in the area. Reflecting the diversity of Montgomery County — we met patients of West African and Panamanian origin during our short visit — the clinic has staff who can communicate in several languages, such as Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Amharic, Spanish, Kashmiri, and Bangla. (Plus French, as Dr. Chotani demonstrated in talking with the West African patient. The clinic relies on help from the Montgomery County Language Bank when other translators are needed.)
We were also lucky enough to meet the founder of the clinic, Dr. Asif Qadri. A cardiologist by specialty, he had been going over a patient’s EKG chart with a medical student from G.W. University who was completing some of her medical curriculum by being on the clinic’s staff for several months. We also met University of Maryland students who were collecting health survey data from participating patients.
Seeing these students helped drive home both another way in which the clinic serves the community — and one secret of the Muslim Community Center Clinic’s success: its founder, executive director, and supporters have been great organizers, coalition builders, and Primary Care Coalition participants, embedding the clinic in a supporting network of teaching schools, state and local agencies, and supportive for-profit businesses.
But underlying it all is the generosity, charity, and faith of the Muslim community at MCC — which also operates a food pantry, library, and an impressive Sunday school including Arabic language instruction. The clinic operates rent-free on MCC premises, and there’s a designated sadaqah donations “mailbox” just inside the main entrance that several of us added our own donations to on our way out. We — and the county — are lucky to have such good neighbors.
Thank you, Muslim Community Center and congregation, and thank you to all who work at the clinic.