The November weather was crisp and clear, and the hearts of those gathered on the steps of Epiphany UCC in St. Louis matched the warmth of the sunshine as the newest Salam Clinic was dedicated. The Salam Clinic — a partnership of local churches, CHHSM member Deaconess Nurse Ministry, and physicians from the Islamic Foundation of St. Louis — provides free medical care services to adults without health insurance.
The ribbon-cutting took place Nov. 9 at 11 a.m., and included representatives of Deaconess Nurse Ministry, Epiphany, the UCC’s regional Missouri Mid-South Conference, and the Islamic Foundation of St. Louis, along with state and local representatives.
“This is the best of faith groups coming together to care for our city and state,” said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, who represents the 5th District in St. Louis city. “The care offered to those who have no insurance or access is critical to the care for all.”
Salam Clinic-Epiphany UCC is the third location opened as the result of a long-standing partnership between Deaconess Nurse Ministry and the Muslim Community of St. Louis. The new clinic, on McNair Avenue in south St. Louis’ Benton Park neighborhood, opens Nov. 16, and will operate every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The dedication was a moving experience for those in attendance, said the Rev. Ginny Brown Daniel, UCC Missouri Mid-South Conference Minister. “Muslim doctors, young people advocating for health care for all, Deaconess Nurse Ministry leaders and nurses, medical students who will volunteer at the clinic, UCC ministers and members, and elected officials from St. Louis and the state of Missouri — those are the people who gathered to dedicate the Salam Clinic,” Brown Daniel said. “This is what a Just World for All looks like! We blessed the clinic with our prayers.”
The clinic has been several months in the planning, said the Rev. Donna Smith-Pupillo, executive director of Deaconess Nurse Ministry. The Muslim physician group wanted to expand to a south St. Louis County location, and Epiphany wanted to help meet community health needs in the area. Christopher Guelbert, RN, a member of Epiphany, had researched the health care needs. His data provided the foundation for the new clinic, where he also will serve as a nurse.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony included the presentation of a proclamation, signed by St. Louis Mayor Kyda Krewson, naming Nov. 9 as Salam Clinic Day. Local alderman Dan Guenther presented the proclamation to Zia Ahmad, M.D., and Nabil Ahmad, M.D., two of the clinic’s physicians. During the presentation, Guenther noted that “40 percent of the residents of this ward of the city live under the poverty level, and many are the working poor. I have wanted to have this clinic here for years to care for those who struggle to find health care.”
As with all Salam Clinics, the Epiphany location will offer walk-in service for clients. “Free laboratory tests will be obtained through a local lab,” Smith-Pupillo explained. “The physicians will see the clients, with the nurses doing referrals and education. The clients can come back for follow-ups.”
Additionally, all sites “give out free flu shots, give out and help with diabetic supplies, provide medication assistance for those who are unable to afford their medications,” said Smith-Pupillo. “With this expansion, more low-income adults will be able to receive the medical services they need.”
Salam Clinic also operates at Lane Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in north St. Louis and St. Peter’s UCC in Ferguson, Mo. During the dedication at Epiphany UCC, all of the speakers emphasized how working together can make a difference.
“We are one step closer to the health and wholeness of St. Louis by the opening of this clinic,” said Brown Daniel. “Those who live at or below poverty and who must struggle to decide whether to go to the doctor or pay their rent can now have their medical needs attended to because of the Salam Clinic. And we are closer to the realm of Beloved Community because we are true neighbors to one another.”
Physician Zia Ahmad agreed. “The work we do is interfaith intentionally,” and is a response to community needs, he said. “All faith traditions have to care for all.”