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Doctors Seek to Open Sikh Center Clinic

The 600-member Indian Medical Assn. of Southern California would offer free services to the needy in Santa Ana community.

November 20, 2000|TAMI MIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Indian Medical Assn. of Southern California is proposing to open a free medical clinic at the Sikh Center in Santa Ana.

The Sikh Center is offering the group of doctors free use of a house on its campus for the clinic. The two groups are negotiating over hours and how much space the clinic would need.

The plan is to help not only center members, but also those in the surrounding community who can't afford health care, said Dr. Sudeep Kukreja, president of the 600-member medical association.

"Our basic aim is to serve, really. Serve people who can't afford medical care," he said.

Kukreja said he and other doctors plan to volunteer their services and dispense free pharmaceutical samples to patients. Association fund-raisers and membership fees would help offset other expenses.

Outreach efforts of this kind have become a tradition of the association--billed as one of the largest ethnic medical groups in the state. Its physicians are of Indian ancestry, most from East India. Since the Orange County-based organization was established more than 20 years ago, it has provided free health fairs at least three times a year in Southland communities.

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With a clinic, more people may benefit.

Dr. Krishan Khurana, president of the Sikh temple and a physician himself, said the clinics would be of special help to temple members, particularly the elderly who speak Punjabi, and visitors from India.

The clinic has a 50-50 chance of becoming a reality, Khurana estimated. An important issue the temple and doctors are negotiating is ensuring the clinic would not interfere with temple functions and temple groups that also use the house.

The small building, adjacent to the main temple, at 2530 Warner Ave., Santa Ana, is used as a cultural school in which children learn Hindu customs, religion and dance, as well as the Punjabi language.

The medical group's umbrella organization, the American Assn. of Physicians of Indian Origin, is the largest ethnic medical group in the nation, with about 35,000 member doctors. The national association runs similar clinics in Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Flint, Mich.

Charitable work has been a hallmark of Kukreja's career.

This year he has traveled to South Vietnam and Lithuania to provide free medical services. "I really love doing that," he said. "If I wasn't there, that person wouldn't have gotten that help."

Kukreja calls these trips "working vacations."

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