Network serves uninsured

LIVONIA — Marie Johnson, 25, doesn’t have health insurance, even though she works full-time.

But she has been able to get medical care through Z.I.A.D. Healthcare for the Underserved, a network of physicians and other health professionals that provides inexpensive or free health care to uninsured patients.

Since it started two years ago in Livonia, Z.I.A.D. has grown to include 45 health care providers with offices across southeast Michigan.

“I thought it was really reasonable,” said Johnson, who was able to have a yearly physical with an OB-GYN at a reduced cost.

Z.I.A.D. patients are charged on a sliding scale according to income. In some cases, patients are treated at no charge.

The organization is run by Ibraham Ahmed, a nurse; and his wife, Julie Jernigan-Ahmed. Neither is paid for their work.

The group is searching for benefactors and grants to help sustain the project. So far, the group has recruited doctors with offices in Clinton Township, Westland, Hazel Park, Caro, Livonia, Detroit, Troy, Southfield, Farmington Hills, Dearborn, Trenton and Oak Park.

“In 2003 we saw 1,500 people, and that doubled last year in 2004. We’re seeing about 3,000 patients per year,” Jernigan-Ahmed said. “I’m thinking it’s probably doubled again this year so far.”

Z.I.A.D. was founded by Ahmed and three others: Ray Zak, a physician’s assistant, Dr. Iqual Nasir and Dr. Theodore Densley. Their initials compose the name Z.I.A.D.

The couple hopes to raise enough money at two events to provide some supplies and medicines to participating physicians.

“As far as the physicians go, they’re donating supplies right now. They charge a $10 minimum, but they supply all their supplies and staff,” Jernigan-Ahmed said. “We’re trying to get a little funding so that at least their medical supplies are covered.

“We’re also working to get pharmaceuticals for the physicians to stock in their office,” she added. “That’s a huge issue because the medicine is so expensive.”

You can reach Karen Bouffard at (734) 462-2206 or