Sofia Adawy, M.D., is the Health Clinic director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a community organization that fosters health, wellness and healing in the inner-city, including through the comprehensive health center that Dr. Adawy directs on Chicago’s South Side. We are grateful for her making the time to be the latest faith-motivated healthcare advocate and provider to participate in our Faith in Healthcare Five-Question Interview:
What do you consider the most important part of your work in healthcare?
Speaking broadly, I would say the most important part of my work is to hold space for healing to occur--in whatever form that needs to be--physical, spiritual, emotional. Most often, it is some combination of the three. As a physician, my role in the care of patients can sometimes be quite complex and can vary significantly from person to person. However, the common thread is to be their support and their advocate, even when they themselves might not see the possibilities.
What motivates you to do your work?
One thing that has always resonated with me is the appreciation for challenges that historically disenfranchised communities face in their daily lives, and the toll it takes on not only their well-being but also their path to self-actualization and upward mobility. Human beings have basic needs that must be met in order to strive toward our full potential, the most foundational of which are physiologic--food/water, warmth, rest, and security.
Unfortunately, there are far too many people within our communities who face physical/emotional trauma, food insecurity, major financial stress, chronic medical conditions, or sometimes just live with the constant worry that they are one crisis away from losing everything.
IMAN approaches all of this as holistically as possible with the understanding that you must address food insecurity to make any meaningful difference in someone's physical health, just as you must address financial health when attempting to reduce violence in our communities. What motivates me personally is the firm belief that every human being is capable of great things when they are given the opportunity to expend their energy toward something more than merely surviving, and the joy it brings me to play whatever small role I can in that journey.
What are the biggest challenges you—or those you care for—face?
It often feels like I am trying to practice medicine with one hand tied behind my back. How can I tell my patients with chronic conditions to eat a certain way, knowing they spend the last week of the month unsure where their next meal is coming from? How will my patient with major depression ever see an improvement in her symptoms when she sleeps only a few hours a night because she works 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet? How do I keep my asthmatic patient from regularly needing to be hospitalized when he has mold in his home and can't afford to move? What can I do for my 8 year old patient with severe anxiety who is afraid ICE is coming to take her parents away?
What do you think the U.S. healthcare system should look like?
I think a model healthcare system is one that takes into account and addresses the multifactorial nature of health, wellness, and healing as holistically as possible. To me, access to quality healthcare regardless of ability to pay is just the starting point. Every major health center should have resources available to address the things I mentioned previously--a place to exercise, a food pantry, domestic violence and other social services, financial and parenting classes, etc.
What role do you see people of faith and faith communities playing in making the needed changes?
Faith is such a strong motivator for many of us to do (or stay in!) the work that we do and a lot of the work addressing people's foundational needs has always been done within faith communities. So many are already walking the walk and have been for a long time. What I would like to see in addition to the boots on the ground is for more faith groups to be involved on a political level, advocating for policies that are in line with the spirit of the work we are doing. Meaningful change always comes from the grassroots level and, in my estimation, no group is better equipped to do that than our faith communities.
Faith and Healthcare Notes
Faith in Healthcare Interviews Featured in Emory University Article! Thanks to Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion for publishing our editor’s article, “Faith in Medicare for All,” inspired by the lessons taught by the dedicated, eloquent Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders interviewed in our weekly issues of Faith in Healthcare over the past year.
Doctors Who Helped Develop Heart Drug Object to $225,000-a-Year Price. The physicians who worked with Pfizer on tafamidis say they have patients who had to sell their homes to pay for care, including this medicine that cost $651 a day.
A single mom had to get all her teeth pulled because she couldn't afford her co-pays. Today, she supports Medicare for All. Another tragic, powerful article on our U.S. healthcare crisis and the inspiring grassroots response, this one on “The Stunning Rise of Single-Payer Health Care” in the Atlantic magazine.