It was about to rain Monday afternoon, and Dr. Husam Zarad had an exam table to move.
With some help from deliverer Don Lambert, the 45-year-old internist unloaded the table from the back of Lambert's pickup as the clouds darkened overhead. Wheeling it on a dolly, they maneuvered the large brown rectangle down a long, narrow hall and into one of the examination rooms at the soon-to-open Crescent Community Clinic of Hernando County.
On the way in, they passed a stack of gray waiting-room chairs and diagrams of the human body — detailed sketches of the nervous system and the brain — yet to be hung on the freshly painted peach-colored walls.
"This is our dream coming true," Zarad said, wiping sweat from his brow after angling the table into the room. "This is how we are going to give back to our community."
In the coming weeks, Zarad and nearly 40 other Muslim doctors in Hernando County will begin working on Saturdays in their new space in the Brook Plaza at Broad Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, just outside downtown Brooksville. Their goal is to provide free care to the growing number of underserved and uninsured people in Hernando County.
Today, the doctors and clinic spokesman Ahmed Bedier are expected to announce the opening of the clinic, financed solely by physicians from Hernando's Muslim community. . .
Those behind the clinic ultimately hope it will work as a catalyst for others to donate their time and talents to such needs in the community.
"For example, many of the same people who can't afford medical care can't go to the dentist," said Bedier, the clinic spokesman. "We hope this sets an example for others to follow, and maybe a way to compete in doing good."
Bedier, no stranger to Hernando as the former executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, added that the physicians aren't worried about some who might not support the Muslim doctors in the county.
In 2006, CAIR spearheaded efforts to get prominent politicians, including then-Gov. Jeb Bush, to denounce the comments of a Hernando County commissioner's wife, who wrote a letter calling Islam a "hateful, frightening religion."
The letter spurred weeks of alternating condemnation and kudos throughout the state.
"People won't be coming to the clinic to attend religious services," Bedier said. "They're going to come because they need health care. While the critics and naysayers will always be there, the majority of people in Hernando County are very loving.
"If there's a need so important like health care, then I think people will put aside their differences and work together." (MORE)