If it has helped them a little, I’m grateful I got the chance, says CNN’s oncologist.
I have always doubted that our fellow citizens are worried about paying for services when they are sick, says the doctor and father of four. But unfortunately, that’s how our system works. Most patients are lucky enough to have some kind of health insurance – a way to pay for all the services and medicines that are terribly expensive, and some are not.
Dr. Atick decided to write off his patients’ debts in time for the Christmas holidays. Each of them received a personal greeting card from their former doctor. The note thanked every patient for trusting Dr. Atiku for his treatment and followed this generous surprise.
According to Dr. Atiku, the debts of his patients range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. When the impact of the coronavirus pandemic increased the financial pressure on many households, Dr. Atik and his family were looking for ways to help.
We were lucky we didn’t need the money, so we decided to cancel the debt and forgive – and we did, he told CNN.
An alarming discovery
Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Atick founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in the community of Pine Bluff to provide comprehensive care to the economically disadvantaged. Before the opening, cancer patients at Pine Bluff had to travel at least 80 km for treatment. Dr. Atik has made it clear that the needs of his patients have always been his primary concern, not their ability to pay.
One of the principles I’ve always followed is that I’m here to see patients. To put his life in my hands is the greatest privilege and the greatest honor I can get, Dr. Atick says. We’ve never turned down a patient for any reason.
For many years Dr. Atik has focused exclusively on the health of his patients. Financial matters such as accounting were left to his office team.
The staff took care of it. And I never looked at the commercial side, he explains.
But earlier this year, when Dr. Atick and his wife began to close the clinic, a closer look at the financial records revealed something disturbing. Some patients have made small payments of $5 and $10 for large debts.
They wanted to (pay) but could not.
As a doctor, Dr. Atick knows all too well the enormous financial challenges that patients often face. But as an oncologist, he knows that cancer treatment is often very expensive. Although he wants all his patients to be able to concentrate on healing, many of them simply cannot, even though they are insured. And most of his patients had to work during treatment. Some of his patients, including older grandmothers, had two jobs before they got sick.
Some (patients) were at work the day they received chemotherapy, Dr. Atick said.
Fault! The file name is not specified.
A lesson in attention
Dr. Atiq, an immigrant from Pakistan, decided to become an oncologist when he realized his community lacked comprehensive cancer care.
When I was studying medicine in Peshawar, Pakistan, there were no oncologists, and I had to, he says. That’s what got me into oncology.
When he emigrated to the United States, he saw a similar need in his community of Pine Bluff.
Fault! The file name is not specified.
In the same spirit of generosity that foresaw the opening of his clinic, Dr. Atik now closes the doors to begin a new chapter. Dr. Atick is a full-time professor of head and neck surgery at Winthrop University. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, part of the University of Arkansas Health Sciences. His patients were safely transferred to the hospital to continue their cancer treatment.
As a practicing Muslim, Dr. Atik believes that his act of kindness was a small gesture compared to what his patients have given him over the years. The courage, resilience and integrity I have learned from my patients is invaluable, he says, in trying to draw attention to his patients rather than his good will.
The problem is his health, he tells CNN between tours. I hope and pray they’re cured of cancer. Or it is well controlled where they live productively and happily with their family, friends and loved ones.
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