Michigan DO organizes massive Thanksgiving dinners for community

“Events like this bring everyone together,” says Safi Mohammed, DO, who spearheaded an effort to serve 300 people three nights in a row.


Growing up, Safi Mohammed, DO, was taught that if he wasn’t with his family for the holidays, he should be using that time to give back to others.

The past two years, Dr. Mohammed has had the opportunity to do just that. While completing his urology residency in Michigan, Dr. Mohammed has organized free Thanksgiving dinners for underserved community members. This year, he arranged for meals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

In this edited Q&A, Dr. Mohammed, a resident at McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s Mount Clemens campus and Beaumont Hospital in Farmington Hills, talks about the importance of community service in residency.

How did you go about organizing a dinner for the underserved?

I reached out to Grace Episcopal Church in Mount Clemens, where I’d previously volunteered. They didn’t have plans for a Thanksgiving meal in 2015, but we agreed that if I could fund and plan it, they would host it. I reached out to local grocery stores for food and to my coworkers at McLaren Macomb for help funding and serving the meal.

Many of my co-workers wanted to do it again this year. With significant donations from attending physicians at McLaren Macomb, we were able to collectively serve dinner to 300 people for three nights in a row. Even my program director came out and cooked for a few hours on Thanksgiving.

What are some of the challenges you faced?

In residency, you can get so worn down. It’s easy to forget about the blessings you have. People are always saying they wish they could do something to help the less fortunate, but they just don’t know how. If I can get even one or two people to understand that it’s not that hard to do something worthwhile and impactful, maybe we can help more people. I’ve always wanted to spearhead community service efforts, and a lot of people had a really good experience serving these Thanksgiving dinners.

I am a Muslim with a full beard living in the Detroit area. Sometimes I get the sense that people are unsure of my intentions. Some of the people we fed this weekend may have otherwise judged me, but they saw that I have nothing to gain from this besides helping to feed my community. Events like this bring everyone together, and the church is really appreciative.

Why is community service so important to you?

Even when we didn’t have much, my parents raised me to give back to people who have less than me. As an adult, I’ve adopted that mentality.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer right before I was accepted at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Downers Grove, Illinois. Going through a family emergency while starting medical school made me realize that becoming an osteopathic physician requires much more than learning science and medicine. You have to get to know your patients and understand how to empathize with them. I try to exemplify that anyone can make a difference daily by simply giving an ear to those in need at the hospital.

I am thankful every day for the sacrifices my parents made that have enabled me to pursue a career in medicine. Without them, none of this would be possible.


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