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IDCC Outreach is Greater with New Eye Clinic

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Serving people every weekend has always been a welcome opportunity for the managers and practitioners of the Indian Doctor’s Charity Clinic ever since it was formed in 1999. Providing the healthcare though wasn’t the only issue: they had creatively pieced together other services through collaborations with other providers. Their main challenge was the insistence by the founders and Board members – and indeed their promise to their supporters and sponsors – that all services would be totally free. Not one red cent would be taken, Nada!

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Though they give a variety of reasons for maintaining this policy, after 18 years the IDCC still stands out in the entire Houston Metroplex for not charging a penny from those who come seeking some medical help. It’s a noble idea but has come with its own set of challenges and each supporter has played their own unique part through acts of altruism, from the landlords charging no rent to medical supply firms and diagnostic centers offering free services, often requiring a little arm twisting.

This all comes out of a sense of dedication to the cause of helping those in need. It’s an ideal that may very well have been engendered from the days in India when MBBS students were sent out into the countryside to provide free medical care to the villagers where none was available, a utopian and noble cause that is still followed to this day. Sensing a need in Houston, in 1999 the husband and wife team of Drs. Suresh and Sunita Moonat decided to plunge into a likewise concept of care by setting up a free clinic in the city’s southwest side. Never mind that they lived in The Woodlands and it took each Saturday out of their lives and countless more hours to coordinate and organize the activities.

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This past Saturday morning, February 18, the IDCC had its largest gathering at the building lobby of its office to herald another major milestone in its history: the opening of a free eye clinic in the only leftover room used as an office in the space. It also offered a chance for the volunteer caregivers to show their appreciation to all those who have advocated for them. The lobby held over 130 people who came for the dedication and ribbon cutting and then partook of a light lunch catered by Bhojan Restaurant.

Over the past few years, K.C. Mehta has been the tireless frontman for the IDCC, spending hours to support the effort with volunteers, collecting donations and, with his business acumen, developing strategies for growth and spreading the message. Mehta emceed the event which acknowledged all the long term supporters of the IDCC who sat in the front row: Dr. Snehal Mehta, Drs. Sunita and Suresh Moonat, Rachel Varghese and Gopal Rana. On the raised dais in front, current IDCC President Dr. Kiran Gandhi sat with philanthropists Swatantra and Bimala Jain, the benefactors who had donated $5,000 to the eye clinic and Dr. K.T. Shah, who has single-handedly provided medical care at the clinic for the past 10 years.

Mehta gave a brief background of the clinic and Dr. Shah spoke about his passion for patient care which led him to volunteer as the physician in charge every Saturday despite his being confined to a wheelchair for the past two years. Shah noted how he has used the yearly $2,500 donation from the Spring Branch Memorial Rotary Club (through the efforts of Rotarian Ashok Garg and current President Dana Burke) to do mass mailings on his own that have resulted in raising $40,000 a year.

The physician who spearheaded the idea for the free eye exams, Dr. Ravi Chandru, a young ophthalmologist in private practice in Spring, introduced his reasoning for starting the clinic and his commitment to volunteering every Saturday morning for the past 3 months, when he sees up to 10 patients. He and his lovely wife Dr. Madhavi Patnana, a radiologist, have bought $20,000 of optical diagnostic equipment and allowed the clinic to use it free of charge. Chandru expressed his respect for the clinic and enthusiasm for providing care for the future.

Mehta called out acknowledgements for 5 years of support from Memorial Hermann; radiology diagnostics by Dr. Lucky Chopra; Dr. Jay Raman, Dr. Satish Jhingran, the Indian Doctor’s Association, and the Indo American Charity Foundation and Raju Patel who donates $5,000 every year. Also in attendance were supporters Ajay and Alka Gupta and Romil Shah representing the Southside Group of Companies. After the acknowledgements and handing out of awards to the Jains, the IDA, IACF and Dr. Chandru and Dr the Jains walked up to the second floor to cut the red ribbon across the door to the clinic.

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