According to Good Morning America, around 200 people are starting 2021 off without any medical debt thanks to the kindness of one oncology doctor who helped erase $650,000 of his patients' debt.
Dr. Omar Atiq, a medical oncologist for nearly 40 years, shut the doors to his cancer clinic in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in March after nearly three decades of business, wrote Good Morning America.
"Over time I realized that there are people who just are unable to pay," Atiq told Good Morning America. "So my wife and I, as a family we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt."
"We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it," Atiq continued to tell Good Morning America.
The week of Christmas, around 200 of Atiq's former patients received a holiday greeting that read, "I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. 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," wrote Good Morning America.
The patients who received the notice had medical debts totaling from hundreds to thousands of dollars from their cancer treatments, Atiq told Good Morning America.
"Since I started practicing, I've always been rather uncomfortable with sick patients not only having to worry about their own health and quality of life and their longevity and their families and their jobs but also money," Atiq said to Good Morning America. "That's always tugged at me."
"You add it to the absolute devastation that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought and you thank God that we're fairly comfortable and this was something we could at least do to help the community," Atiq told Good Morning America, who made the decision along with his wife Mehreen.
Atiq, now a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, and his wife are the parents of four children, all of whom are either doctors or studying to become doctors, according to Good Morning America.
His wish for his now debt-free patients is that they enter 2021 with their lives a "little bit easier," wrote Good Morning America.
"I just hope that it gave them a little sigh of relief and made it easier for them so they could face other challenges they may be facing in their lives," Atiq said to Good Morning America.