Lansing 'Family' Clinic Open to All

By Todd A. Heywood

Capitol Correspondent

LANSING -

Dr. Shannon Wiggins, 38, remembers standing at the border crossing into Jordan. Her husband, who is Palestinian, was being strip searched while she waited on the other side of the border. He was obviously the subject of more intensive security screening than she, an American. As she waited for hours, she noticed a Jesuit priest waiting patiently as well.

As a Baptist she had been raised to believe that not believing in Jesus meant you were destined for hell, period. Her parents had disowned her for marrying a Muslim. So she approached the priest and asked him, "Do you believe that all these Muslim people are going to go to hell because they don't believe in Jesus?"

His answer changed Wiggins' worldview. He said, "No. I don't. I think that good people go to heaven, period. God is a just and compassionate God."

Those words form the basis of her East Michigan Family Clinic, which caters to a wide variety of clients. She has clients from all over the world, as well as LBGT community members, and the whole gambit of income levels from abject poverty to the affluent. From prostitutes to crack users to students to the working poor.

She speaks fluent Arabic, and she has staff who speak Bosnian, Spanish, Urdu and Housa.

Her clinic reflects the diversity of the greater Lansing community, and for Wiggins' that is important.

"I substitute my patients for my extended family," she said. "I feel wanted and I feel needed by them."

She said she is horrified by the attitude of some her colleagues, particularly towards the LBGT community and the poor. "They are arrogant," she said of other doctors. "They don't understand me because I am there helping people they don't know or understand."

She related the story of an older gay man she recently diagnosed with prostrate cancer. The man had been in to visit a urologist several years prior, but the specialist had made disparaging remarks about his sexuality, so the man left. He did not see a doctor until Wiggins diagnosed him with prostrate cancer.

"I really believe that had that other doctor taken the time to treat him like a person, the cancer would have been caught early and there would not have been a need for surgery for him," she said, shaking her head. "And it was obvious how hurt he was by it. He was in tears when he told me."

"I want to help people. I want to be compassionate," said Wiggins. "I want people to feel safe and cared for, and that is what my clinic is about."

When she started the clinic it was a tiny office with two exam rooms and waiting room with four chairs. Her colleagues laughed at her because she started by seeing patients for free. They were convinced she would fail.

But as word spread of the doctor who accepted people as they were, her waiting room filled up.

She took on complicated cases no one would touch in the community. She now carries a caseload from newborn babies, to HIV positive individuals, to the elderly. She has access to both Lansing hospitals and is the medical director of a local nursing home. And she has two fully functional clinic locations, both centered in low income regions of the community.

"I think I have done good in the community," she said. "If I had to do it over again, I would, without a hesitation."

East Michigan Family Care

2310 E. Michigan Avenue

Lansing mI 48912

517 346 7628

East Michigan Family Care Clinic II

4415 North Grand River Ave

Lansing Michigan 48906

517 323-3646

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