Wayne County Healthy Communities Steps up to serve Hamtramck

Hamtramck is an amazing place, full of history, diverse cultures, interesting people from all over the world speaking a variety of languages congregated in one small area to form a new community of exciting possibilities in the American landscape.

By Stephen Coats & Rasheed Alnozili
The Yemeni American News

It is in this setting, as part of the reviving Wayne County Michigan a progressive health initiative is taking place as part of the Wayne County Healthy Communities program.

We visited a local medical clinic located on Joseph Campau, Hamtramck Health Center, to get an idea of what was happening here. Amaal Haimout, MPH, the Clinic Director was drawn to this amazing place, “Arabic was actually my first language I also learned Spanish so I’m now trilingual. I love traveling, I’ve always loved to learn about different cultures and languages so Hamtramck was a perfect place for me because it’s very diverse. Over 70 languages are spoken here. That’s what really drew me to work at Wayne County healthy communities.”

According to Rafik Seifeldin, LBSW, the Behavioral Health Coordinator he would agree this place is unique, “Hamtramck is growing it’s flourishing we get in different ethnic groups moving into the Hamtramck area now it’s not just Bengali and Yemeni. We get an assortment of a bunch of different nationalities coming in.” The languages of Hamtramck are an asset for sure but it can be a challenge when communicating with so many people, “We have a 24-hour translation company contracted by phone for the next three years we can translate any language whatever it is so that everybody will get the perfect understanding of communication and medication and what everybody saying.” according to Rafik.

When asked on what they have to offer at this cozy and family oriented place with 25 employees, Seifeldin said “Here we are a one-stop shop medical, dental, behavioral health services, and benefits outreach programs. As well as WIC. We are in the same office. We do case management where we go out to the homes and check on our clients”. The family atmosphere is surely enhanced when you notice the resemblance and see Rafik’s brother also working there, Dr. Raouf R Seifeldin, the chief medical officer, both bringing their skills from their Egyptian heritage. Raouf adds, “this area is dear to me because of the community.  I have ties here, my father was an obstetrician-gynecologist here for a long time and I covered for him for a few days in his office.”

Dr. Seifeldin can treat most anything with his vast experience, “I see patients throughout the continuum of life from birth all the way to old age I see them for any kind of condition I see both males and females. We try to involve the patient in their own care.  We try to educate our patients in whatever condition they may have. Chronic medical conditions require a lot of work from the patient to understand what’s going on with themselves and how to deal with their condition it’s not a matter of giving the medication and that’s the end of the story.”

Due to the larger amounts of immigrants and refugees coming into this area some of the medical needs are very specific.  Talking about patients that have fled from war zones in Yemen and Syria, Dr. Seifeldin says, “We make sure their nutrition is appropriate, that they have the vitamins that they need and the kind of immunizations that they need for pregnancy.  Just to make sure that everybody is doing okay we can do lab work, physical examinations whatever tests they need to be done. We always have a little issue with making sure we have enough documentation of previous care.”

Faizeh Faouri, Ph.D. LLP is the Behavioral Health Psychologist at the clinic says “I have been working in Hamtramck for about 20 years, different agencies, same work. I work with kids and families, children and adults. I feel like Hamtramck is like my hometown. I feel like I am among my family. I have been doing therapy to work with the parents and train them how to deal with their kids. To empower the families and give them more opportunity to deal with the kid’s issues in a positive way and to reduce the level of fighting and screaming in the house.  And at the same time, it will improve the kids’ compliance with rules and expectations. I have been seeing a lot of newcomers which they suffer from going through the war in Syria and Yemen and they have what we call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and we are trying to deal with their issues to help them to reduce the level of their anxiety and adjust to a new culture and be a part of the culture of the United States.

Hamtramck is not a wealthy neighborhood, it has experienced a lot of financial hardships for all the community, the health clinic has answers for that as well.  Mr. Seifeldin explained, “We direct them to the outreach specialist, we will get them insurance in the meantime will put them on a sliding fee.  WIC has been here and been established for years and they provide great services for the people in the community and our office probably sees more WIC clients than in the other offices.”

Mrs. Haimout added with a smile as we toured the newly decorated facilities, “Some people see Hamtramck as a low economic area and think there are not very many professionals there but it’s quite the opposite; there is so much you can do here to change the environment.  When I was studying for my masters I always had a focus on underserved communities and I always told myself if not me then who?”

She adds “If I don’t step up to the plate and help people that really need help then who else is going to do it?”