Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Beyond the free clinics origin myth: Reconsidering free clinics in the context of 1960s and 1970s social movements and radical health activism
by Nibbe, Niki A., M.A., University of California, San Francisco, 2012, 165; 1505674
Abstract (Summary)

A "free clinics movement" origin myth, uncontested for forty years, has come to assume the weight of historical fact: the opening of the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic (HAFMC) in 1967 led to the opening of numerous "hippie free clinics" following the HAFMC model; this model was taken up by communities of color for their free clinics; and by 1970 a thriving free clinics movement was building momentum towards integration into the healthcare delivery system. This paper reveals the origin myth to be a product of the National Free Clinic Council's efforts to assume leadership of this presumed "movement," and wholly inadequate to describe the breadth of the clinics it attempted to lead. The history of the Berkeley Free Clinic demonstrates, moreover, that the myth obscures free clinics' efforts to create new, empowering models of health care as part of radical social movements for change during the 1960s and 1970s.

This paper identifies and critically interrogates the origin myth using National Free Clinic Council publications, including proceedings of its 1970 symposium and a national survey of free clinics; Health/PAC and other contemporary accounts of the 1972 symposium; and additional contemporary and scholarly descriptions of clinics started by medical activists associated with Student Health Organization (SHO) and Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), and self-reliant clinics started by Third World power organizations such as the Black Panther Party, Young Lords. The founding of the HAFMC is described using collections of leaflets and other ephemera from the Haight Ashbury; a collection of leaflets and other writings generated by the Diggers organization; and participant accounts published by Dr. David Smith and Digger Emmett Grogan. The narrative of the Berkeley Free Clinic's (BFC) origins was derived from documents found in the archives of clinic organizers Dick York and the Berkeley Free Church, which include participant histories, correspondence, and institutional records; clinic documents and oral history from longtime BFC volunteer Scott Wilkinson. The description of the BFC's evolution towards a collectivist approach to meeting health needs and the deprofessionalization of their services, including the inspiration they derived from Maoist China and its barefoot doctors, was derived from archival material, clinic documents, and participant oral history.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Watkins, Elizabeth, Porter, Dorothy
Commitee: Adams, Vincanne
School: University of California, San Francisco
Department: History of Health Sciences
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 50/04M, Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: American studies, American history, Health care management
Keywords: Barefoot doctors, Clinics movement, Community clinics, Free clinics, Radical health activism, Social movements
Publication Number: 1505674
ISBN: 9781267142962
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