Dr. Dave Smith talks about Haight-Ashbury Clinic during the Summer of Love
Gene of SF | October 31, 2008 at 05:17 pmby
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Seeing that the hippies were having drug-related problems and becoming interested in their cause, Dr. Smith went to the City and County of San Francisco to get the permits to start a free clinic. “I went to the city to ask to start a free clinic in San Francisco. They said no because it would “encourage” people to come to it and this and that.” After his first attempt, Flo Straud a nurse that knew Dr. Smith gave him an article titled The War on Poverty. It talked about how people set up health-care programs for low-income people seeking medical attention for free. Dr. Smith then made a second attempt with City Hall. “I went back to the city with the article. Again they said no because it would encourage people to come to San Francisco General.” Dr. Smith then used his inheritance money and bought an apartment on Stanyan and Fredrick and gathered support from fellow students, professors and residents at the UCSF medical school. Together, they set up a private practice, which eventually became the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. “It was a creation of UCSF but UCSF never actually supported it. This was community based and support came from the community.” There was support from people but also there was opposition among people. “It created a split between liberals and conservatives at UCSF.” Dr. Smith was criticized by a doctor who believed Dr. Smith was going to be a great doctor by saying, “David where did you go wrong?” He thought Dr. Smith was throwing everything away by creating the clinic. There was also opposition in the community as well, mainly from the landlords who owned the buildings around the clinic.
An article in 1967 called Dr. Smith a communist for creating the free clinic believing that it was the start of Socialized medicine. “They thought I was a communist for creating the clinic and helping out others.” Dr. Smith responded by saying, “…people should help other people out with their health care and that health care is a right not a privilege. We don't need to have politics for health-care. It's not political, it's a service.” The clinic continued to help the Hippies after the Summer of Love by helping them with everything from their drug-related illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases and things as simple as the flu. During that time, famous people started to come to the clinic to receive treatment while in San Francisco. “Dozens of [famous] people wanted to experience the clinic. We’ve had Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, movie people and politicians come visit the clinic.” After a while the clinic started to run out of money to support itself after the Summer of Love. Dr. Smith didn’t even think the clinic was going to even last a month after it opened.
Support eventually came from benefit concerts from groups that have received treatment at the clinic, like Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead who performed benefit concerts to raise the money for the clinic. Another person who supported the clinic was Bill Graham, a rock concert promoter and namesake for the Bill Graham Auditorium at Civic Center. Bill Graham organized many more rock concerts to benefit the clinic “Bill Graham is our patron saint.” Bill Graham remarked to Dr. Smith, “You are doing a good thing and I want to help you.” Bill Graham donated staff and use of The Fillmore for a concert in 1967. He also organized two Saturday night concerts in 1973 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco featuring The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin to benefit the clinic. The concerts were a success and provided enough money to fund the clinic again again. Dr. Smith says to this day, “This clinic was built on rock and roll.” These promotions helped make the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic a well-known icon for hippies and of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Attention was also brought to the clinic when a San Francisco Chronicle writer, David Perlman wrote an article about the clinic just after it opened in the summer of 1967. “David’s son saw me take care of the kids at a concert at The Fillmore one night and he was fascinated how I was helping these people.” Dr. Smith credits that article for saving the clinic from going out of business. Dr. David Smith still runs the clinic along with other people but devoting more of his life to his family. “It became my life, maybe too much, but the clinic isn’t my family.” Dr. Smith didn’t have a family yet when he started the clinic but he now has children and grandchildren so he devotes more time to them. The Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic is still in business today and has treated over one million people free of charge.