Physican Starts Free Clinic in SLO

By Nancy Forrest | Information Press
December 1, 2011

After more than two years of hard work and preparation, the SLO Noor Foundation Free Clinic is open for business, and doctors are seeing patients eight hours per week on Fridays and Saturdays. A majority of the free clinic’s patients are Caucasian middle-class and small business owners who are employed but cannot afford to purchase health insurance and who cannot pay for health care services out-of-pocket.

Thirty percent of residents of San Luis Obispo County are uninsured, a rate five percent higher than the statewide average, said physician Ahmad Nooristani, who founded the clinic. Nooristani said he was surprised by the numerous roadblocks he encountered in order to establish the nonprofit free clinic including an arduous process of seeking a license and complying with city, state and federal regulations which, at times, was “beyond insanity.”

But Nooristani said he is grateful that the process is complete, and the volunteer doctors and other medical personnel at the clinic can now focus their efforts on providing quality health care for their patients. The clinic has 700 volunteers and one paid position—a full-time clinic manager.

“They asked ‘What can we do?’ This is very unique community and they wanted to give something back,’” he said. “Everything in the free clinic was donated. The free clinic has been a volunteer project that was started by many members of the community.”
Nooristani said he was inspired to establish the free clinic while seeing, first hand, that more than 4,000 patients visit local hospital emergency rooms as their sole source of health care because they had lost their job or their health insurance.

“We studied previous free clinics, and we wanted to provide health care services for the uninsured,” he said. “We have appointments for medical services booked until the first week of January, and the eye clinic until next June. If funding enables us to do it, we hope to have more days open during regular hours and perhaps a half day with appointments after 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., so working people can see a physician. We are a work-in-progress. Although the free clinic has only been open for one month, we have seen about 130 patients in eight hours each week. The need is absolutely there.”

The free clinic provides about $30,000 worth of medical services each month.

“I want San Luis Obispo County to be the healthiest county in the area,” the physician said. “We are the healthiest, but it is a reasonable goal to set. I am challenging everybody in the county to take more responsibility for their health care, search for it and ask for it. We are already the ‘happiest’ place to live, and I want us to be the ‘healthiest’ as well. Crazier things have happened.”

Nooristani said the lack of health insurance and adequate treatment of lingering health problems causes increased sick days and decreased workplace productivity, as well as an increase in untreated high blood pressure and other health problems that he considers the equivalent of a bomb waiting to go off.

“Prevention is important,” he said. “We can save millions and billions by preventative health care.”
He said the biggest surprise he has experienced since opening the clinic has been how appreciative the patients and his colleagues have been.

“They own a small business but don’t have health insurance, and paying for health care out-of-pocket is not an option because of the cost,” he said of his patients. “Many are educated people who know what their health care needs are and they are coming through our doors.”
Nooristani said the clinic must comply with all standards that apply to a hospital facility.

“We had to pay a lot of money to give free health care, but it has all been worth it in order to provide quality health care for patients and to see the level of appreciation we receive from them,” he said. “We have 50 doctors who are on-call, as well as nurses, physical therapists, and nutrition specialists, and we expect to be adding more medical specialties as our hours increase.”

Nooristani said he anticipates the clinic having future obstacles to comprehensive health care, including the need for increased laboratory services and technology to provide diagnostic imaging such as echocardiograms and ultrasound. The physician said he plans to hold fundraisers and seek grants, as well as donations from private and corporate donors, to fund the clinic.

“The more money we raise, the more services we are going to offer,” he said. “This is a very resourceful community that can help others. Hopefully, it’s going to be contagious. Ideally, I would like to share what I have learned through the approval process with others so they can repeat the same process of establishing a free clinic without having to reinvent the wheel. I hope it will shorten the time needed, enable them to avoid the mistakes I made, and provide the means to gather resources.”

“This has never been done before,” said Whitney Gordon, spokesperson for the free clinic. “We know that the need is never going to stop, so we are figuring out how to fund the clinic on a consistent basis. We are looking for generous people to help us do that.”
Nooristani, who immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan when he was 14 years old, attended high school in Simi Valley before attending California State University, Northridge and Atlantic City Regional Medical Center. For the past three years, he has worked in internal medicine at Sierra Vista Hospital and French Hospital, in addition to devoting about 20 hours per week to the free clinic. He said Afghanistan lacks any health care system, but he noted that the United States has health care but many people cannot use it.

How to help:

Tax-exempt contributions can be made to the Noor Free Clinic through slonoorfoundation.org

Free Medical Clinic Serving Mostly Middle Income Patients

By Carina Corral |  KSBY News

It has been a little more than a month since a free health clinic opened up in San Luis Obispo.

The doctor who founded and runs the clinic to see how many people he’s seeing..and just who is seeking help.

“I’m already booked into July for eye clinic and primary another two months,” said Dr. Ahmad Nooristani, the clinic’s medical director and founder.

He said it has been an overwhelming past five weeks.

The doors are only open two days a week, about four hours a day, and already they have seen 150 patients and have given out $40,000 worth of services free of charge.

95-percent of the patients have been middle class, some working, some who just lost their jobs, even small business owners who just can’t afford health insurance.

“I think as a physician I’ve never been this appreciated and I have never appreciated this much as far as the patient. It’s just amazing. People have cried , people will hug you it’s just an unbelievable experience,” said

Dr. Nooristani would like to expand services and hours, but he can’t do it without help.

The clinic relies 100 percent on donations.

How to help

Tax-exempt contributions can be made to the Noor Free Clinic through slonoorfoundation.org

SLO’s Brand New Health Care Clinic is Free to All

By Andrew Kassouf | The Cuestonian

Dr. Ahmad Nooristani has brought a much needed service to San Luis Obispo County: a free health care clinic.
A three-year process has become a reality for Nooristani and the San Luis Obispo community. Opening its doors on Oct. 13 the Noor Free Health Clinic Foundation has already shown success with both the patients and the volunteer physicians.
The Noor Foundation is a volunteer, non-profit organization providing high quality free health care to people who do not have health insurance in the community.

What is it that would drive someone to open a free health care clinic during this down economy?

According to Nooristani, it was passion and a way to give back to the community that he is a part of.

“There’s a huge need for it. As a physician, I saw a need to give back to the community. Especially since about 30 percent of the people in our community are uninsured and unfortunately, most of them go medically unseen due to the lack of being insured.”

But why have a free health clinic in San Luis Obispo?

“SLO is a good starting point, and since I live here, it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Nooristani said.
In order for the clinic to offer service, they must rely on donations and other forms of help from the community. “Private donations and grants, but mostly donations from private businesses and individuals is where the money needed to keep the clinic operating comes from.”

A patient must be 18 years or older, which means it’s open to almost anyone and everyone in need of health services.  As of now, the Noor Foundation Health Care Clinic offers a number of procedures. Every fourth Thursday an ophthalmologist will be on site for free eye exams and free glasses.

They will also be offering procedures for physical therapy, nutrition, mammograms, colonoscopies, ear, lung, kidney, brain and nose exams. They’re also expecting to start having classes soon for depression and anxiety management.  “We’re going to try and add different specialties,” said Noorisani.

This is a huge benefit for students and others who cannot get insurance companies to cover them if they have some sort of pre-existing condition or just can’t afford any of the insurance plans offered by insurance companies.  Since the Noor Free Health Clinic Foundation is free, it is very important for them to get as many volunteers as possible to help out in any way they can.

“Anyone from the nursing programs at Cuesta and Cal Poly are welcomed to volunteer, and anyone ranging from computer technicians to nurses and physician assistants are more than welcome to volunteer at the clinic,” said Noorisani.

“Since it is a free health care clinic, there is no pay, but great for experience. And the ability to give back to the community is a great reason alone to want to volunteer.”

A big plus side is that the Noor Free Health Care Clinic is one of San Luis Obispo’s largest non-profit, all-volunteer-run establishments.

“We are one of the largest facilities in the county that is strictly volunteer operated and run, with 500 volunteers. It would be nice to see that number continue to grow.”

The Noor Free Health Care Clinic is located at 1428 Philips Drive Suit B-4 SLO, CA 93401 and hours of operation are Fridays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Nooristani graduated with a medical degree at Ross University of Medicine and researched in Internal Medicine at the Atlantic City Internal Medicine Medical Center.

Want to make an appointment? Call the clinic at (805) 439–1797.

How to help

Tax-exempt contributions can be made to the Noor Free Clinic through slonoorfoundation.org.

Filling a void: Free health clinic opens in SLO

Doctor’s efforts and determination culminate to assist those in need

Ahmad Nooristani probably didn’t realize the wall he’d hit in creating a free health clinic in San Luis Obispo. Yet, three years after putting his shoulder to the task, he’s pulled down the wall one stumbling block at a time. His dream is now reality as the Noor Free Clinic has its grand opening today at 9:30 a.m.Located in the B-4 space at 1428 Phillips Lane, in the Bruington Professional Building, the clinic will be open for uninsured patients from 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It will expand its hours and services based on demand.It’s probably not too tall of an estimation to say that the clinic will be a game-changer in county health care. It’s been determined that about a third of the county’s residents don’t have any form of health insurance.Although many of those individuals seek medical care through the system of Community Health Centers — clinics that charge a sliding fee based on income — others were using the county’s emergency rooms for primary care purposes. Such situations burden doctors who are treating emergencies while adding costs to overall health care when a patient can’t pay.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I haven’t heard of the need for a free clinic,” Nooristani said. “That’s been a huge motivation for me.”

So the Afghan-born Nooristani (whose name translates to “Land of Hope”) began his quest several years ago and almost immediately ran into obstacles. It’s one thing to offer free services, it’s quite another to support those services.

Although he’s had a support team of several hundred people working on getting the clinic open — specialists, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, ophthalmologists, technicians and spokeswoman Whitney Gordon — he had to find financial sources for paying rent, liability insurance and expensive air filtration systems among a host of other anticipated and unknown costs.

Toward that end, Nooristani, an internist at French and Sierra Vista hospitals, created the tax-exempt, nonprofit Noor Foundation (“Inspiring Hope”). It also didn’t hurt that well-attended fundraisers kicked significant dollars into the operational kitty.

Along those lines, a major financial hurdle was cleared last week when the county Board of Supervisors enthusiastically gave the Noor Foundation a $75,000 grant that will cover the annual costs of lab work, which will be performed on-site to save time while reducing possible errors.

Other aspects of running a free clinic aren’t, well, free. Although doctors, specialists, nurses and an office manager, Tommy Barber, won’t be paid, the plan is that Barber will draw a paycheck in the future due to the anticipated day in, day out demands of his job.

Then there are the fixed costs, like monthly rent, insurance and office supplies. The cost of running the clinic on an annual basis isn’t yet known, spokeswoman Gordon said.

“The beauty of this project,” Nooristani said, “is that the more money that’s contributed, the more services we can offer. Every donated dime goes to health care. An X-ray machine would be great for preventive medicine.”

And that’s the key to the clinic: preventive medicine. Toward that end, the Noor Foundation clinic will offer diabetes annual exams, basic metabolic panels for blood and liver tests. An ophthalmologist will be at the clinic every fourth Thursday to offer free eye exams; glasses will be free.

Mammograms, colonoscopies and exams for lung, kidney, brain, ear, nose and throat will be available, as well as a podiatrist and physical and nutritional therapists.

“We’ll have classes dealing with heart failure and risk management, as well as classes on depression and anxiety,” Nooristani explained. “Every month, we’ll add a new specialty.”

Now, what’s to keep those who have the financial means or insurance from using the clinic’s services? Nothing. The good doctor isn’t going to screen anyone for income or insurance coverage. To do so, he said, would simply add another cost obstacle for those legitimately needing medical help.

“There may be about 5 percent who abuse the services,” he explained, “but they should remember that by doing so, they will be taking someone else’s place who has no insurance or means to pay.”

As it stands, Gordon said, “If the clinic has two providers for the current open hours from 1 to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, we can see between 18 and 20 patients a day. With one provider, it’s about 10 patients a day. This is within the time frame of new patients. Patients who are seen for follow-ups will require less time.”

“For this Friday and Saturday,” she added, “the staff will consist of one physician, two nursing staff, one medical assistant, one front office person, one clinic manager and Dr. Nooristani who will be the ‘floater,’ filling the gaps as needed. So, we’ll probably see about 20 patients — give or take — this week.”

With word of the clinic’s opening being spread through the Prado Day Center, Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and other homeless and low-income programs, patients will initially be treated on a first-come, first-served basis. The ideal situation is that no one waits longer than 15 minutes before being seen by a doctor.

• • •

“He’s inspiring,” said clinic manager Barber. “He’s like the Energizer Bunny.”

“I don’t know how he does it,” he added, of the 20-hour weeks Nooristani has put into the clinic while working seven days on, seven days off at Sierra Vista and French.

“I’m having a great time doing this,” Nooristani said, “knowing this fills a niche. It’s exciting to think of what this can do.”

The hazel-eyed physician, born in Kabul, Afghanistan, 35 years ago, emigrated to the U.S. in 1991 and subsequently earned college and medical degrees here. He found San Luis Obispo while interviewing on the West Coast and was captivated by “the different atmosphere here, the friendliness. It’s beautiful. You couldn’t ask for more.

“Coming from Afghanistan with nothing, and now this?” his voice trails off. “I’m living the American Dream.”

And the walls came tumbling down.

How to help

Tax-exempt contributions can be made to the Noor Free Clinic through slonoorfoundation.org.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com orat 781-7852.

One last thing stopping a free health clinic from opening


A doctor on the Central Coast is ready to open the doors to a free health clinic in San Luis Obispo, there is just one thing stopping him.

There are empty patient rooms ready to be filled with people who cannot afford health insurance.

Doctors will provide free medical and eye exams, which includes free glasses. There will be gynecology, neurology and radiology services, physical therapy, nutritional education and lung and kidney specialists.

The focus is on preventative medicine.

“The goal is to prevent people from going to the ER. Prevent that heart attack, prevent that stroke, prevent the patients who are going to need dialysis because they couldn’t come see a physician,” said Dr. Ahmad Nooristani.

He is the founder of the clinic, SLO Noor Foundation, and said he is trying to reach the middle class patients. “Part of the problem is with current insurance, the premium is getting higher, every visit costs a lot of money. I see a lot of people who do have a job they do have some income but they still cannot afford to get insurance, whether it’s the premium or the co-pay.”

Dr. Nooristani said 4,000 uninsured patients made visits to emergency rooms at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and French Hospital Medical Center last year alone, adding that 30 percent of the population in San Luis Obispo County are uninsured.

The need for a clinic like this is more than ever, but there’s one thing stopping Dr. Nooristani from opening the doors.

The heating ventilation-air conditioning unit needed to be changed out before an operating license can be issued. It was an unexpected $26,000 cost.

“It’s one of the obstacles we’re currently working and I hope to get that donated to at least open the doors,” said Dr. Nooristani.

Everything in the office has been donated. The hope is the community will be inspired to help one last time.

Once the doors are open, Dr. Nooristani said it will be the first clinic of its kind: with so many services under one roof, offered free of charge, and being 100 percent volunteer run from the doctors to the front desk, aside from two part time positions.

A JOURNEY BY FOOT Walkathon May 21, 2011

A Journey by Foot

A Journey by Foot

Register Here

A JOURNEY BY FOOT Walkathon is a collaboration between the non-profits SLO Noor Foundation and Doc to Dock. Both organizations are jointly working on the solution to the healthcare dilemmas facing us here and around the world. They will be sharing the proceeds 50/50. SLO Noor Foundation’s funds will go directly to provide medical supplies and equipment. Doc to Dock’s will go directly towards shipping a 40ft container of medical supplies to Africa. Jointly, both Founders will be walking side by side with all of you who want to help everyone have an opportunity to have medical care. They provide high quality healthcare and supplies locally and abroad to those in need.

SLO Noor Foundation is a free medical clinic that will be opening up in San Luis Obispo. It is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization. Founder: Ahmad Nooristani, Internal Medicine, Medical Director Sierra Vista Hospital. Continue reading “A JOURNEY BY FOOT Walkathon May 21, 2011”

Healthcare innovation in our backyard

Healthcare innovation in our backyard
Bringing medical treatment to those in need, SLO Noor Foundation and Doc to Dock collaborate with the help of local woman

BY ALYCIA KILEY

CHEERS TO HEALTH!
After helping the Ugandan North American Medical Society, Rebeca Ponce is now helping a local doctor host a fundraiser for other worthy medical causes.

Few 24-year-olds have the persistence and confidence of Rebeca Ponce. A born-and-raised SLO native, Ponce decided she wanted to volunteer with Ugandan North American Medical Society (UNAMS). Continue reading “Healthcare innovation in our backyard”