A Pakistani-origin doctor in the United States forgave more than half a million dollars in outstanding debts from nearly 200 patients. Dr Omar Atiq founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in 1991. But the clinic shut its doors in February 2020 owing to staff shortage. The clinic offered cancer treatments ranging from chemotherapy and radiation therapy and tests such as CAT scans, according to a media report. Earlier this week, the clinic sent out holiday greetings and told patients that any outstanding debts would no longer need to be paid. “I hope this note finds you well,” wrote Dr Atiq. “The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to have you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for the majority of patients, even the deductibles and copays can be burdensome.” He added, “Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works.” He informed patients that the cancer clinic was closing practice after over 29 years of service. “The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients,” said the note. “Happy holidays.” “We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people’s lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff,” Dr Atiq told Arkansas Online. “We just thought we could do it, and we wanted to, so we went ahead and did it.” The doctor is also a professor at UAMS College of Medicine and oncologist at the UAMS William P Rockefeller Cancer Institute. According to the local daily, the clinic worked with a billing company to cancel the debt and ensure no patient who owed money would face any type of financial repercussions. Originally from Pakistan, Dr Atiq moved to Pine Buff in 1991 after completing a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City. “It really is fate,” he told Arkansas Online. I moved my family to Arkansas after receiving a call from Jefferson Regional Medical Centre with a job offer.” He added that the decision to move was “life changing”. The doctor became the first non-white president of the Arkansas Medical Society in 2013 and in 2018 he was named chairperson-elect of the board of governors of the American College of Physicians. “We have been very grateful. This has been home for a long time. We are grateful for the opportunity for what has happened to our lives here,” he said. “I believe the opportunities that have come my way are, in part, because of where I am.” When the thought of forgiving outstanding debt first crossed his mind, Dr Atiq reached out to executive vice-president of the Arkansas Medical Society, David Wroten.