Dr. Omar Atiq had served his community as founder and head of the Arkansas Cancer Clinic since 1991.
For the holidays, he served a little more – forgiving a total of $650,000 in medical debt relief for 200 patients – as he closed down his practice after nearly 30 years.
“I hope this note finds you well,” the clinic wrote in a holiday card informing patients of the parting gift.
“The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to have you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome.
Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works.
Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community.
The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”
Working on a sweet story tonight.
Around 200 cancer patients in Pine Bluff got this holiday card a few days ago— Dr. Omar Atiq who founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic is forgiving all outstanding debts owed by patients.
He says they wiped away bills totaling around $650,000. pic.twitter.com/IHnQ3IAv15
— Hunter Hoagland (@HunterHoagland) December 30, 2020
Such an act is not surprisingly encouraged in Islam, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“A man would give loans to the people and he would say to his servant: If the debtor is in hardship you should forgive the debt that perhaps Allah will relieve us. So when he met Allah, then Allah relieved him.” (Sahih Bukhari 3293, Sahih Muslim 1562)
The clinic closed in late February due to staffing shortages, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported. It had provided chemotherapy, radiation, diagnostics such as CAT scans, and other cancer treatments to thousands of patients over the decades, the Democrat Gazette said.
Atiq, originally from Pakistan, had moved to Arkansas after finishing a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in 1991, ABC News said.
“They’re like our extended families – there’s no higher honor than to serve as a physician,” Atiq told ABC News.
“If I have been blessed to be able to help a little, then I am glad for it.”
He not only forgave the debt but also made sure that none of the patients with outstanding balances would run into financial repercussions later, such as when trying to obtain credit, Atiq told the newspaper.
“Being sick is hard, having cancer is harder, and having cancer in this pandemic is devastating,” Atiq told KLRT-TV.
”I am just a regular physician – a regular person that they have in the neighborhood – just so happens to be me standing here. The ones struggling couldn’t pay, so we thought we could just write off the debt.”