Doctor helping poor in native country

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2003

A local emergency room doctor is working to help people not only locally, but halfway around the world as well.

Dr. Nasreen Hussain, an emergency room doctor at Albert Lea Medical Center since 1996, established a walk-in medical clinic 10 years ago in her home community of Hyderabad, India.

&uot;People ask me why India,&uot; Hussain said. &uot;I had a base there, and there are so many people who have nothing there.&uot;

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Hussain returns to her home country every six to eight weeks to visit her family and to see patients in a building on her family’s property that was converted to serve as the clinic. When she’s not there, a team of volunteers keeps the clinic open.

Now, the clinic &045; called the Shaktishifa (meaning strength and cure) Health Foundation &045; recently entered its second phase: Workers are converting a chicken coop on her parents’ property next to the clinic into four examination rooms.

The clinic actually stemmed from a project Hussain did in the slums of India while in graduate school. &uot;We showed the people how to prevent illnesses and developmental delays,&uot; she said, adding they were shown how to mix protein powder and which supplements could prevent certain diseases.

When Hussain completed her post-graduate studies in medicine at the University of Minnesota in 1993, she received an unexpected surprise. As the recipient of the Leonard P. Burke Memorial Award, through the Minnesota Medical Foundation, she was given a grant valued at about $750.

Hussain used the money to establish the clinic.

&uot;I was able to buy a bed, a surgical cupboard, instruments and a tiny lab,&uot; she recalled.

As India’s fifth-largest community, Hyderabad offers state-of-the-art medicine to the privileged upper class while many of the city’s poorest residents die from preventable diseases.

The walk-in medical clinic focuses on health screening, prevention and education. She said she sees a lot of tuberculosis and malnutrition there.

&uot;The patients come from the slums,&uot; the doctor said. &uot;We could go all day and all night. It’s not like a regular clinic.&uot;

Hussain describes the clinic as

a &uot;place of last resort for people who can’t afford diagnostics.&uot; The clinic has referred people to other places and then paid for diagnostics in the past, but Hussain said the clinic will now begin looking for used equipment so medical volunteers can do the diagnostics themselves.

In addition, the goal is to employ a physician two or three days a week. Hussain’s niece, Farrah Hussain, a physiotherapist, is serving as the coordinator.

In March, Hussain officially established the India Health Foundation, a non-profit organization that runs the clinic.

Hussain’s son, Arsalan Azam, who graduated from Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault this spring, organized a fund-raiser concert for the clinic in April, and it raised $6,500. Hussain said the money will be used to purchase a van for the clinic. She estimates it will cost another $8,000 to renovate the building to house the examination rooms and to purchase additional supplies.

On Aug. 25, the first group of volunteers from the U.S. will be going to the clinic, and others from Albert Lea have indicated an interest in going and helping at other times. The clinic is also working with the Henry Martin Institute for additional medical volunteers.

Anyone interested in assisting with this project in any way beyond making a tax-deductible monetary donation may call Jan Olson or Dr. Steve Wiese at 377-6353. Check donations, made out to The India Project, may be sent to 1510 Southview Lane, Albert Lea.