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Columbus Welcomes Ohio's First Somali Primary Care Clinic

Paige Pfleger
Farhiya Shirwa, left, and Amina Abdule, right, opened Ohio's first Somali primary care clinic.

About 100 people crammed into a small clinic on Columbus' west side on Sunday to celebrate the grand opening of Ohio’s first Somali primary care center.

Columbus' Somali population is the second-largest in the country, at about 40,000 people. Research shows that the community is especially underserved when it comes to preventative testing like pap smears, vaccinations, colon cancer screening, and mammograms.

“Somali people that live in Columbus, most of them came to this country as refugees,” says Amina Abdule, a nurse practitioner and one of the clinic owners. “A lot of them do not speak the language. When they go to a provider that is not a Somali speaker, there is a language barrier.”

Abdule says she’s seen firsthand the need for a clinic like this one—the language barrier makes it complicated for patients to explain their symptoms, get prescriptions or understand a doctor’s directions. Here, all the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists will speak Somali.

“A space like this means a safe haven,” says Farhiya Shirwa, one of the clinic founders. “I can really go deeper in asking, to avoid misdiagnosis, over-diagnosis, or under-diagnosis.”

Primary care services like the Medcare Clinic are generally associated with higher completion rates of preventive services. 

Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU
Farhiya Shirwa in an exam room in the new Somali primary care clinic.

At the grand opening, attendees said that the clinic being owned by two Somali women will help women feel comfortable talking about reproductive health, and set a strong example for young Somali girls.

“I am really excited, I’m excited for the community,” Shirwa says. “I’m excited for what we have accomplished, I’m excited for what we can accomplish in the future.”

The clinic, at 4125 West Broad Street, will officially open its doors Tuesday. And they'll welcomes everyone—Somali or not.