What started out as a pinky swear at a Starbucks has now turned into a place that provides hope to those who would have nowhere else to go. The Hope Clinic provides free healthcare and medical treatment to anyone who can’t afford to pay.
Seeing a Need
When they were in medical school, Jane Powers and Monsoor Emam started working at an emergency room. After a while, they started to find themselves helping and treating people in the parking lot because the people were too afraid to come in—they may have been undocumented or not financially secure. Powers and Emam knew that they had to do something to adequately help this group of people. In 2005, they worked with the Sonami Foundation to start a clinic. Unfortunately, however, after some life events happened in the family, Monsoor had to go to California.
When he came back, he met up with Powers again to continue their objective. However, to achieve that objective, they swore to keep it simple. They wanted to keep the clinic small, with 100 percent volunteers. In 2009, they would begin to work toward their goal, and in 2010, The Hope Clinic officially became a 501(c)(3).
After keeping it simple for 11 years now, Powers proudly says with a smile, “It works!”
All Hands On Deck
David George is just one of around 200 volunteers that work at the clinic. Not only is he on the board of directors for the clinic but he also helps with the accounting and paperwork. Most importantly, he is Powers’s right-hand man.
“Anything that Jane doesn’t know how to do or wants done, she’ll tell me to go take care of it,” he says with a laugh.
George claims that Powers does all the “real work” around the clinic, but she may claim otherwise. The value of each one of the volunteers is almost palpable as soon as you walk in. Every single one of them is treated with the same amount of importance because things really couldn’t be done without all hands on deck.
“It doesn’t matter your denomination, race, or anything. Everybody just comes here to help,” George says. “If somebody needs something, we are here to help.”
Medical students make up a big part of the volunteers. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University send students to volunteer at The Hope Clinic to gain experience. After their degree is finished, many of them return.
“Can you imagine?” Powers asks. “You’re in school, you have a heavy schedule, and you drive in horrible traffic to get here in the morning. You’d better bet I’m going to give you a big hug and a treat!”
Matt Pierce has been a volunteer since 2013. While he was studying medicine at the University of Utah, one of his roommates suggested that he volunteer at the clinic.
“I was just barely getting into medicine and the health world. He said, ‘You should really go to this clinic. This is a good place to learn, and it’s a good place to serve people in the community—immigrants, and refugees.’ I felt like that’s what I should do,” Pierce shares.
Pierce moved from filing charts in the back office to interpreting Spanish to doing triage and taking vital signs after he got his MT license. “Then I went back to school to become a physician assistant, and as soon as I graduated, I came right back here.”
A Piece of the Pie
The Hope Clinic can’t do everything themselves, but with the help of others, they are able to provide as much care to their patients as possible. Intermountain Healthcare contributes a lot to the clinic. They will donate many supplies and medicines, along with donating services such as MRI scans and other treatments. Even the Astro Burger next to the clinic will hold on to some of the shipments that are sent to the clinic when it isn’t open.
The doctors who volunteer at the clinic are invaluable. “Some of the best doctors in the state come and volunteer,” says Pierce. “These are people that I would be put on a year waiting list to see. Orthopedics, dermatologists, gynecologists, and even dentists are just some of the many different types of practitioners who will give some of their time to help here.”
Olive Pharmacy is the clinic’s main supplier of prescriptions, providing medication to patients that they would otherwise not be able to afford. Even over-the-counter medicines that cost just a few dollars are a huge help. And because of the partnerships they have with all of their fellow medical providers, The Hope Clinic is able to refer their patients to other places to receive free healthcare from them.
A Medical Melting Pot
Starting with the founders, The Hope Clinic has always been home to diversity among the patients and volunteers. The three directors of the clinic include a Muslim, a Latter-Day Saint, and a Catholic. When the clinic was first opened, Elder Russell M. Nelson, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Monsoor’s local imam both gave dedicatory prayers for the well-being and blessings the clinic would bring. The clinic’s patients and volunteers are also racially and culturally diverse.
“The beauty of Salt Lake is that we have all kinds of languages here,” Pierce says. “We have interpreters who come and speak Spanish or Chinese or Tongan, or whatever.” He goes on to say that the clinic has seen such a wide range of patients that almost every single language has been seen in the clinic at some time.
Nawris Alhassan is a volunteer who helps with getting patients’ prescriptions refilled, along with following through to make sure that patients are regularly checked up on.
“I was a refugee myself, and I came to [the United States] when I was a little girl,” Alhassan shares. “I saw the barriers with healthcare growing up. My mother didn’t speak English, and my father was working two jobs just to stay afloat. As a child, I remember getting frequent ear infections, and my mom didn’t really understand why. So, oftentimes, my mom would do a home remedy to try to heal it, but she was really just making it worse. She didn’t know that she could take me to clinics like this.”
Alhassan has made it her mission to reach out to disadvantaged minority groups in Utah and to educate them about healthcare. She wants to pave the way for other little Muslim girls so they can see that there is representation of them in the medical field.
“Many girls in my culture aren’t really allowed to finish school,” Alhassan explains. “I had to beg my father for me to finish homeschool. When little girls can see women like me, women of color, they can hopefully see that they can do it, too.”
A Place of Miracles
Powers says that miracles happen almost everyday at the clinic. Just recently, a woman from El Salvador came to visit her family in Utah, and she had some pretty severe medical problems. She went into the clinic, and they found that she had a colostomy at some point in her life. She didn’t have the necessary bags and equipment to properly treat it, and sadly, the clinic didn’t have them either. Colostomy bags are very expensive, and she and her family are very poor, so many times, she would just use a towel instead of the proper bag. The day after the woman came into the clinic, one of the volunteers, Miko, found the exact equipment needed to treat the colostomy.
“I don’t know who dropped them off, or where they came from!” Powers exclaims. “And these are usually something that Miko would never use or stock. Things like this seem to fall from the sky whenever we need them.”
Pierce remembers working with a man from Venezuela. As a lawyer, he just couldn’t make it in the country because of the turmoil Venezuela is going through. Over the course of a year, he made his way to cross the border into Texas where he was detained. After that, he was released and came to Utah where he had a friend. He had some health concerns, and he especially suffered from trauma.
“I remember seeing him for the first time. He came here, and he was really nervous because he just didn’t know how much he could say about his story,” Pierce recalls. “We started working on him and taking care of the things that he needed, and after a couple of visits, I could see the relief in his face. It was really important to me to see him come here and feel heard and seen and taken care of.”
The Hope Clinic is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and is located at 65 East 6850 South, Midvale, Utah. At this time, it is in great need of blankets, coats, gloves, and hygiene kits. To volunteer or donate, visit their website, utahhopeclinic.org, or follow their Facebook page, @HopeClinicUT.
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