News, Arkansas, Doctor, Cancer

News, Arkansas

Doctor wipes away $650,000 in debt from 200 cancer patients' bills

Doctor wipes away $650,000 in debt from 200 cancer patients' bills

1/1/2021 7:19:00 PM

Doctor wipes away $650,000 in debt from 200 cancer patients' bills

Dr. Omar Atiq, an oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas , sent out a holiday greeting to patients before Christmas, letting them know their outstanding payments would be cleared.

Outstanding patient bills totalled nearly $650,000. However, the clinic worked with a billing company to cancel the debt."We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people's lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff," Atiq said."We just thought we could do it, and we wanted to, so we went ahead and did it."

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Atiq, originally from Pakistan, is a professor of medicine and otolaryngology-head and neck in the UAMS College of Medicine. He is also the chair of the board of governors of the American College of Physicians, a UMAS biography reads.The doctor moved his family to Arkansas in 1991 after completing a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and receiving a job offer from the Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff.

"Being sick is hard, having cancer is harder, and having cancer in this pandemic is devastating," he told KARK."I am just a regular physician—a regular person that they have in the neighborhood—just so happens to be me standing here. The ones struggling couldn't pay, so we thought we could just write off the debt."

"It is really fate," he said, referring to the decision to move."We have been very grateful. This has been home for a long time. We are grateful for the opportunity for what has happened to our lives here."Atiq said he was happy to give his patients a bit of relief."I love them, I care for them, and I am glad I was able to do a little bit at this point for them," he explained.

The Arkansas Medical Society President said his clinic, in part, amassed the outstanding debt because"we have never refused to see a patient.""Not for lack of health insurance or funds nor for any other reason," he said."I've always considered it a high honor and privilege to be someone's physician—more important than anything else."

Read more: Newsweek »

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