Dr. Omar Atiq, 60, originally hails from Pakistan but has spent the better part of the last three decades in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, working at The Arkansas Cancer Clinic.
He’s connected to the University of Arkansas Medical Services, where he’s a professor, and he’s an oncologist at the UAMS William P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
In February 2020, he had to close the Arkansas Cancer Clinic because of staffing shortages, and there were plenty of unpaid balances from his patients, ranging from less than $100 to the tens of thousands.
In March, he decided to start forgiving debts under $100. But as COVID surged and the situation worsened, he and his family decided to forgive all debts.
The clinic had nearly 200 patients, and their bills came to a total of over $650,000. All of them were waived.
To let his patients know, Atiq sent out Christmas cards bearing the wonderful news.
“Dear Patient,” the letter read, according to a post by reporter Hunter Hoagland. “I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to have you as a patient.
“Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works.
“Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays!”
The news certainly made the holidays happier for the recipients of the unexpected charity, and many wrote back to express their gratitude. For Atiq, the generous move was straightforward.
“People have lost jobs,” he told WAGA-TV. “People have lost income. People are just in bad situations.
“And we said ‘Well … why don’t we just write it off?'”
“We didn’t need the money, and the patients needed the money. It’s not fair for people who get sick, for them to worry about paying to get better.”
He hopes that his example might be picked up by others in health care.
“This might encourage what I was already trying to do,” he explained. “And I’m hoping and praying that we continue to be blessed to have these opportunities to be of a little assistance to our fellow human beings.”
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