Born in the Summer of Love – Haight Ashbury Free Clinic


When the Summer of Love hit, the community was total craziness. There was thousands of
young people on the streets. I opened Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in June of 1967. After interning at San Francisco General, I studied clinical
toxicology here at UCSF, and as a result, I became
the local drug expert, and ran the alcohol and
drug abuse screening unit. The streets were jammed. There were tour buses seeing the hippies. There was rock music going on in the park, Grateful Dead, Jefferson
Airplane, Janis Joplin, all the kids were tripping out on drugs. The city actually tried to stop us through its regulations. When we went to them to try to have a regionalized health clinic and they said, “No, you can’t do it.” So we found an old dentist
office at 558 Clayton Street. When we opened the doors, there was about 250 young people
lined up down the street, and they came in with gonorrhea and cut feet and colds and pneumonia because they came from
all over the country and they thought it was
sunny in San Francisco in the summer and it wasn’t. It was “make love, not war.” So there was all the sex
and there was all the drugs and it was all the lifestyle, and so we were jammed from day one running 24 hours a day. You had a stigmatized,
discriminated against population, ’cause you didn’t like how they looked, you didn’t like what they did, you didn’t like the fact
that they were taking drugs, you didn’t like the fact that they were protesting against society and therefore you were
gonna deny them health care and let them die and make them go away. That’s when I first said, “Health care is a right, not a privilege.” May 1967, that became the founding slogan of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic and then became the founding slogan of the national free clinic movement, because after we started our clinic, there was about 400
free clinics nationwide. Large number of the UCSF students, residents, nurses, some faculty from all disciplines, including
the School of Pharmacy, volunteered at our
clinic and supported us, and the first major support I got was from Dr. Phil Lee, as chancellor, he was probably the most important person to me at UCSF because we had this kind of underground activity that was getting a lot of publicity. Dr. Lee, who was chancellor, said, “David, you’re
doing the right thing.” I’m very much a product of the ’60s, touched by the counterculture revolution and I just believe that
if we have enough forces aimed at the right thing, that eventually, it’ll
arc towards justice. (upbeat music)

1 thought on “Born in the Summer of Love – Haight Ashbury Free Clinic

  1. thanks for posting this video and David Smith's story. i turned 18 in April and arrived in Haight on June 30, 1967. i came from LA. i was there all summer, middle class kid living on panhandled spare change, eating wonder bread and twinkies as a steady diet, and the occasional treat of fish and chips covered in vinegar and wrapped in newspaper from that fish and chips place on Haight near the Clinic, on the other side of the street. people working at that clinic must have eaten those fish and chips. i went to the clinic at least once, maybe twice. The time i dimly remember was drug related. i think i experimented with something involving an IV route ingestion, which was a rare thing with the people i was part of, the crash pad i lived at on Lyon and Haight, it was a special adventure to do that, at most that would have happened twice all summer, so i wasn't experienced at it, and i got scared that i had some kind of air bubble in my vein and was going to die and i went to the Free Clinic, waited my turn and told the doctor why i came and showed him the place where i thought the air bubble might be. Everyone there was kind to me and i knew it was ok to go there and tell them anything, they were part of the culture of Haight and the summer of love, an important part, they told me i was fine, there was no air bubble and i felt relieved and i was given some gentle counseling about taking risks. i think maybe i was on acid that day, or else i went another time when i was on acid and thought something was wrong with me, some kind of paranoia, and i received serious care, they knew everyone who came in there was living virtually on the streets and in altered states of consciousness and in most cases, at a stage of life that was very naive, a complex combination of factors that meant that each patient could be high risk of any number of things, so they treated each very seriously, as they screened people who came there, assessing and providing what was needed. The video talks about the realization of Smith and his supporters of the uniqueness of the situation and a need to provide services in a way that matched the uniqueness of the situation.. As described in the video, there was always a line there. i never knew the story behind the free clinic and the video was moving for me.

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