On Johnnie Dodds Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, an unassuming brick building is home to the Shifa Clinic, a completely free medical facility intended to aid uninsured and underserved members of the community. Opened in 2012, the clinic was the brainchild of Dr. Reshma Khan, who had long dreamed of creating a free-of-charge gynecology office. Inspired by her Islamic faith, which places a significant emphasis on compassion and charity, Dr. Khan sought out assistance from the Islamic Circle of North America.
At the time, she was working at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, but now she volunteers full-time at the clinic, which has expanded to offer primary care, dermatology, pediatrics, mental health, vision, pregnancy care, free vaccinations, and soon, dentistry. This spring, Dr. Andy Kloch, a general dentist based in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, will help Shifa Clinic kick off the newly established dental services.
“We’re going to start out as just an extraction-only clinic until we really get our feet on the ground,” Dr. Kloch explained. “I’ll volunteer once or twice a month in the beginning to help with screenings, and, if anyone needs a tooth pulled, we’ll be able to take care of them and get rid of their pain.”
Though services will be limited in the beginning, the clinic intends to eventually offer a full array of dental procedures.
“Going forward, our goal is to expand our treatment to include fillings, hygiene and eventually become a fully functional clinic,” he said.
While the dental clinic is on track to open in the early summer, it took time for the idea to gain traction. Dr. Khan considered offering dental services a couple years ago, but the wish didn’t became a reality until the last six months. Run entirely on donations and volunteer work, Shifa Clinic does not rely on any government funding, so it can be difficult to raise enough money to purchase expensive medical equipment, medications and other necessary supplies.
When Dr. William Altman, a recently retired Surfside Beach dentist, heard about Dr. Kloch’s involvement with the clinic, he decided to donate tens of thousands of dollars worth of dental equipment.
“He was an enormous help,” said Dr. Kloch. “We were having so much trouble getting anything in the beginning, then he donated almost all of the equipment we’ll be using – digital X-rays, the chairs, the actual delivery systems used to perform the fillings and other services.”
The generosity of donors such as Dr. Altman and many more were an extremely significant part of beginning the dental clinic. However, without the help of dedicated volunteers, the clinic would not be able to function. All current medical services offered by Shifa are performed by hardworking medical professionals who devote their free time to assisting patients in need. Once the clinic has found its footing, Shifa hopes to attract more local current and retired dentists as well as hygienists to volunteer so that the clinic can be offered more often and benefit more people.
Though Dr. Khan was inspired by her faith to start this project, Dr. Kloch said, “The entire clinic is very welcoming to people of all religions and ethnicities. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, the main goal is to make sure that everyone is treated equally and receives the same care.”
Anyone interested in becoming a patient can apply online as long as they meet a few simple eligibility requirements. The clinic also runs an on-site pharmaceutical dispensary, outreach efforts and educational programs.
“Dr. Khan is the most caring person I have ever met, so I think her entire goal in creating this organization was to help as many people as she possibly could,” said Dr. Kloch. “It’s very inspirational to see how excited everyone is about this new clinic, from the volunteer workers to the actual patients. It makes you feel good about the world when you see so many people willing to help out.”
Dr. Khan and Dr. Kloch are actively searching for additional dental professionals to join Shifa’s team of volunteers. Please contact Dr. Kloch at [email protected] if you are interested.
By Samantha Connors