Hello, I’m Amina Haji, M.D., founder of Karisha Community Center for Wellness. My journey to starting Karisha began long before me. My grandmother was a physician in India in the 1930s. She became a political activist with Mahatma Gandhi, and later spent the rest of her life in an ashram (religious retreat) in the Himalayas. Since my childhood, my grandmother has been a great inspiration and influence in my life; my career and mission stem from the seeds she planted—social justice, health, and spirituality.
My mom and dad were also physicians in Bryan, Texas. Committed to serving and caring for all , they were the only physicians in our town who accepted Medicaid patients in the 1970s. As a child, I saw many diverse faces coming to see them. Like many towns in America, ours was divided by segregation, economic disparity, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. Witnessing the discomfort of the wealthier, mostly white patients in my parent’s waiting room when confronted by those less well-off materially made me realize that healthcare was a commodity—and access to it was influenced and limited by the structural inequities of our society.
I learned that it is not enough to just open up the doors to all. We also need to cultivate connections and understanding among our community members.
At home, we practiced yoga and followed our culture of Ayurveda, the science of life and the traditional system of medicine in India. This background shaped me as a person and instilled in me the belief that food is medicine. To be balanced and whole, we must care daily for the body, the soul, and the mind.
When I enrolled at Texas A&M University’s medical school and later undertook my residency and practice at Scott & White and Brackenridge hospitals, I became dismayed: I was shocked to discover that the medical community viewed health care as a process to fix one part of the body while disregarding or downplaying all the other factors that influenced and shaped people’s lives.
Furthermore, medicine seemed to be considered a business that saw the patient as a source of income, a consumer–provider relationship. This approach was in sharp contrast to how my family had practiced healing. Contrary to the hospital model that incentivizes costly procedures and economic gain, conscious healthcare looks at individuals as whole human beings and considers all the factors that influence and shape their lives.
Because of my family background and early experiences in the healthcare field, I’m on a mission to improve the system. Having served the Austin area for over 20 years and seen the disparity in quality of care from East to West Austin, I wholeheartedly believe that we can do more and build a better path forward.
“I believe in Karisha Community Center for Wellness because as humans, we all seek well-being and have the innate potential to live well and thrive. Our U.S. populace is growing tired of our largely privatized, profit-centered sick-care system and seeks a change that’s cost-effective, humanistic, and cares for our well-being. Karisha is a common-sense solution to shift from sick care to health care, for all people.”
— Amina Haji, M.D.
CEO & Founder, Integrative Family Medicine