On a recent Friday in Des Moines, members of Des Moines University’s American Muslim Medical Student Association visited a local mosque, Masjid an-Noor, for daily prayers, fellowship and health screenings provided by DMU students. The event was organized by first-year DMU students Hiba Bangash, Nida Khan, Shanzay Suhail, Salah Siddiqui and Yousuf Zafar.
“The mosque serves people who include refugees and those for whom English is not their first language. They may hold back on seeing a physician because of a language barrier,” says Bangash, a student in DMU’s doctor of podiatric medicine program. “It’s nice to be able to offer screenings at the mosque, which is a safe space for them.”
“People are more comfortable with a health provider who looks like them,” adds Khan, an osteopathic medicine student. “Having that cultural awareness can overcome barriers.”
In previous years students have offered screenings at Masjid an-Noor, the Islamic Center of Des Moines and during several local events such as Des Moines’ Latino Festival. The COVID-19 pandemic put many of those activities on hold. Both mosque members and DMU students are eager to get them back up and running.
Tom Benzoni, D.O.’83, EM, AOBEM, FACEP, assistant professor of osteopathic clinical medicine, and Noreen O’Shea, D.O.’84, FAAFP, assistant professor of behavioral medicine, medical humanities and bioethics, joined the students at the mosque to provide physician supervision and logistical support.
“Events like these are great ways for students to utilize skills they learn in the clinical medicine labs, like doing vitals, and also to watch us counsel patients on what the lab tests mean for them,” O’Shea says. “They can see themselves as future physicians in a different way than in other volunteer settings.”
Students collected each participant’s height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol and glucose levels. They also measured hemoglobin levels among women participants to check for anemia.
“It’s really exciting that we can practice skills learned in classes in a real setting with real patients,” says Suhail, an osteopathic medicine student.
DMU’s community relations department and Sigma Sigma Phi, the osteopathic honorary society, provided supplies for the mosque screenings.