By Dr. Farooq Bandali
On January 12, 2019, Muslims 4 Peace (M4P) hosted it’s first healthcare conference titled “The Role of Health Care Professionals: Eliminating Barriers and Disparities in Society.” The purpose of the conference was to bring Muslim healthcare professionals together to discuss current challenges and explore potential solutions. The keynote speakers were Dr. Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey’s Commissioner of Health and Sr. Najah Bazzy, a Critical Care Nurse and Clinical transcultural specialist and CEO of Zaman International. The conference was extremely well attended with more than 150 healthcare and non-healthcare professionals. The aim of this article is to briefly summarize the presentations and discussions from this conference.
The program started with Qur’an recitation by Dr. Bassel Ghaddar. This was followed by a welcome address by Sr. Sajida Haji. The emcee for the program was Dr. Syra Madad. The speakers included Dr. Rizwan Naeem, Sr. Naheed Khan, Sr. Najjah Bazzy, Dr. Nasar Qureshi, Dr. Iqbal Jaffry, Sr. Fatima Abdi (Public Health) and Dr. Shereef Elnahal. There was also a presentation by KnowMed, a medical software program, designed to assist busy clinicians with medical diagnoses, prescription alerts, drug-drug and drug-food interactions.
Dr. Rizwan Naeem introduced the Soldiers for Healthcare program. This program is designed to introduce high school and college students to gain healthcare experience. Sr. Naheed further explained that the program consists of 5-month didactic and 2 month internship. Some of the offerings include CPR training, blood pressure monitoring, and opportunity to become an EKG technician. Students gain the didactic portion at Nassau Community College in Long Island, NY. Due to the success of the program, the long-term plan is to expand this program is most states in the US.
Sr. Najah provided a very inspirational and touching story of the historical beginnings of Zaman International. Zaman formally became a non-profit organization in 2004, although their work began in 1996. Zaman’s mission is to promote hope for humanity for people living below average conditions. Since inception, Zaman has applied a needs-based, community-driven approach to their programming in order to help households meet their basic needs and break the cycle of poverty. Zaman is dedicated to addressing the diverse needs of their clients and endeavor to develop personal relationships with their clients through home visitations and regular meetings. Zaman also empowers the households they serve through training and vocational programs. To learn more, visit Zaman International.
The next talk was titled “Healthcare access for the underprivileged.” Dr. Nasar Qureshi discussed the importance of giving back to the underprivileged. He highlighted how healthcare services to the underprivileged are diminishing. He also emphasized the need to strive for heath education, screening, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, adequate follow-up and chronic disease management. Dr. Qureshi has previously served as the secretary for Association of Physician of Pakistan Descent of North America (APPNA) which has conducted the Annual National Healthcare Day and have established free clinics.
Since 2012, Dr. Iqbal Jafri has been involved with one of APPNA’s free clinic in Plainfield, NJ. APPNA NJ has cared for more than 2000 patients. The clinic is schedule once a week on Sunday’s from 9-12 pm; patients must call for appointment. There are 30 physicians from different specialty including endocrinologists, urologists, sports medicine etc. Any patients without health insurance, who need medical therapy, can receive care at APPNA NJ.
Fatima Abdi spoke on behalf of Muslim4Peace. M4P has further identified additional need for medical a clinic. The idea is to provide healthcare with kindness and compassion with a focus on preventative healthcare services. M4P announced their intention to set up a free healthcare clinic.
Dr. Shereef Elnahal’s keynote talk was titled “Eliminating Barriers and Health Disparities.” He started his talk by discussing how healthcare coverage is a major priority for NJ. Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington is deliberate to undermine the Affordable Care Act with potential loss of 20 million insured including 800,000 in NJ. However, NJ is taking unprecedented action to preserve healthcare coverage for NJ residents. Those affected include Hispanic and Muslim American community. Interestingly, Muslim community is amongst the most charitable. Dr. Elnahal mentioned how Governor Murphy is acutely aware how NJ Muslims are passionately working towards charitable causes and giving back to society. NJ has number of health care initiatives including preventing and treating cancer, addressing the opioid epidemic, women’s health, maternal mortality. Other concerns include lead exposures in NJ homes, promoting flu vaccine, and expanding appropriate access to medical marijuana.
This was an excellent half-day seminar where professionals came together to discuss challenges and solutions in healthcare. It was also an excellent opportunity for networking and sharing of ideas. Besides participation from individuals, there was also representation from healthcare organization like APPNA and Imamia Medics International (IMI). MFP also awarded four individuals for their contribution to healthcare. These included Dr. Wajih Rizvi (Award: Lifetime Community Service), Dr. Mohammad Ali Haider (Medical Humanitarian Award), Sr. Najah Bazzy (Medical Humanitarian Award) and Mohsin Ali Khan (Global Entrepreneurship Award In Medicine). Mr Mohsin Ali Khan is the chancellor of Era University and the chairman of the American University of Barbados. MFP looks forward to making into an annual event and would like to thank all those involved in the planning and execution of this program.