Pakistani-American doctor wipes away $650,000 in debt for cancer patients


Dr Omar Atiq, a Pakistani oncologist who lives in the US, has made headlines for wiping away $650,000 in debt for patients at his cancer treatment centre in Arkansas.

Dr Atiq told his 200 patients of the news in a Christmas greeting card.

“I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurers pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome,” the card read.

“The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”

The clinic shut down in late February after 29 years of service. The card also announced its closure.

According to Newsweek, outstanding patient bills at the centre totaled nearly $650,000. The clinic worked with a billing company to cancel the debt.

The clinic provided cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and diagnostics.

Dr Atiq is also a professor at the UAMS College of Medicine and oncologist at the UAMS William P Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

He told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that there was no better time to do this than during a pandemic. “We just thought we could do it and we wanted to, so we went ahead and did it.”

Dr Atiq is originally from Pakistan and moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1991 after completing a fellowship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City.

In 2013, he was named the first non-white president of the Arkansas Medical Society and in 2018 he was named chairperson-elect of the board of governors of the American College of Physicians.

Dr Atiq said the Arkansas Cancer Clinic has the amount of outstanding debt it did partly because it has 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.”