Dr. Omar Atiq, an oncologist who founded the Arkansas Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff in 1991, has waived the bills of over 200 patients with a total worth of $650,000.
Atiq made the announcement via letters to his patients on Dec. 28, according to FOX16 KLRT.
“I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient,” the letter reads. “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 doctor hoped this holiday gift helps bring joy to his patients after a very challenging year with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am just a regular physician – a regular person that they have in the neighborhood – just so happens to be me standing here,” he said. “The ones struggling couldn’t pay, so we thought we could just write off the debt.”
Atiq worked with a billing company to ensure his patients will not face any financial repercussions after waiving their bills, Arkansas Online reported.
Originally from Pakistan, Atiq completed his fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City before moving to Pine Bluff in 1991, where he founded the Arkansas Cancer Institute. He decided to move to the city after receiving a job offer from Jefferson Regional Medical Center.
Atiq, a professor at UAMS College of Medicine and an oncologist at the UAMS William P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, became the first non-white president of the Arkansas Medical Society in 2013. He was later named the chairman-elect of the board of governors of the American College of Physicians in 2018.
The Arkansas Cancer Institute accumulated this amount of patient debt partly because they “never refused to see a patient,” Atiq explained.
“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.”
Image via FOX 16 KLRT