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Health News Florida

The little mobile medical unit that could: a mosque, a donated ambulance and a dream

Musilim community center orlando wmfe.jpg
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

In 2017, the American Muslim Community Center opened a mobile clinic to provide free health care to people in need in the greater Orlando region. These days, demand for services is up about 450 percent.

The need for free health care is on the rise as the COVID pandemic continues and the cost of everything from food to housing has become unaffordable for some. 

Back in 2017, the American Muslim Community Center in Longwood opened a mobile clinic with the goal of providing free medical and dental care to people in need in the greater Orlando region. 

These days, demand has increased by around 450 percent. 

Atif Fareed is sweating heavily in his gray polo with the clinics’ logo, which looks like a tiny heart monitor.

The heat index is well over 100 degrees in the sun, and Fareed, the clinic’s director, is walking around greeting volunteers before hundreds of waiting cars start streaming into the Bithlo Church of God parking lot on Orlando’s east side.

He steps into the mobile unit briefly.

“All the blood pressure, you know, blood pressure, everything, we have everything in here, there’s nothing we don’t have,” he notes.

Fareed says the mobile unit was built out of an ambulance donated by the city of Sanford in 2017. It makes stops at local churches and homeless centers where volunteer doctors and nurses provide free medical, dental and mental health care to anyone in need.

The clinic keeps a stockpile of free medicines and even eyeglasses for their patients who are mostly uninsured and in some cases undocumented.

“You have to have a pulse. It’s the only requirement. If you have a pulse, we will see you,” Fareed says.

Fareed says many of these patients also struggle with transportation and homelessness so they might only see them once for a quick checkup and then never again. Others, like Kodjo Tchaye, are returning patients.

“So, I had been ... seeing doctors here since mid-2019. And I always have my medical needs met," Tchaye says. "The nurses and the doctors, they do their very best to meet my medical needs, as well as my dental needs, and they put their heart in the job.”

Tchaye, who works part time at FedEx, isn’t insured and relies on the clinic to meet most of his health care needs.

Physician assistant Melissa Molina is part of a team of volunteers who provides Tchaye with care. She splits time between a private medical practice and the clinic. As a bilingual speaker, she can provide care in both English and Spanish.

“Honestly, I feel like patients are actually more grateful," Molina says. "And I feel a little bit also more fulfillment when I take care of what I see, like is a real need.”

Molina says that even before the pandemic, people were going to emergency rooms for care because they couldn’t afford anywhere else, but she says the pandemic, along with rising inflation and an affordable housing crisis, are forcing more people to seek care at ERs.

Hospitals like AdventHealth have recognized the need for clinics like this to provide accessible health care and have donated lab work and equipment.

Fareed says the clinic has expanded far beyond its beginnings.

“And it’s faith in action. We’re trying to put our faith in action by serving people in this community. We belong to this community and anybody who is in Central Florida is part of my family, and I gotta take care of them,” he says.

Fareed says he doesn’t see the need for this free clinic slowing down anytime soon. In fact, he’s in talks with another health system possibly interested in helping.

To make an appointment or to learn more, click here.