Walking around Berlin after my lecture to the European Congress of Andrology, I am struck by the how this European city is at once both indelibly historic and wildly modern. A profound reminder that history is really happening right now, with every breath we take.
We are also making history! Clinic by the Bay in San Francisco has now survived, nay flourished, for two years. The little free clinic that could.
History of a Free Clinic
I can still remember the day some 4 years ago that Janet Reilly came to visit me in the urology procedure area of the Veterans Hospital in San Francisco. There she was, all gussied up in her civies, amongst the Veterans in their hospital gowns, looking me in the eye and saying: “Puleeze!! I really need your help to start a free clinic for the working uninsured!” And there I was, a busy academic surgeon on a dozen committees and running another handful of training programs with yet another demand being made on my precious time.
But this request was different. I emailed her later that day and said: “Absolutely! Count me in.”
Why did I get involved? Beginning with the former Haight-Ashbury Clinic, there are a couple of dozen clinics that care for the homeless in San Francisco. But there are precious few clinics that offer free care for those working souls who cannot afford health insurance for themselves or their families. And this population in need is not small, comprising almost 10% of San Franciscans.
After two years of trial, error and trial again, we have become, in car talk, a small but well-oiled machine. And one that is completely privately funded. Notably, during this critical and challenging time of growth, our little Clinic has also made a little history on the side. As recently observed by Aaron Hurst in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, we have become an innovative non-profit by relying on pro bono help “not just to keep the lights on but to go from good to great.” Indeed, almost half of our life-breathing “support” comes from professionals of all walks of life, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, accountants, lawyers, and business men and women. Simply stated, our extensive use of donated services also means that 89% of every dollar received goes straight to care.
Here are some of the other reasons why I became, and remain, involved with Clinic by the Bay. Nothing beats:
- Giving back in your own backyard. No need to travel to Africa to make a real difference.
- Providing the gift of better health
- Helping fellow citizens in an incredibly fundamental way
- Making the community a better place
- Doing what you love to do
So, I offer you, right here and now, an opportunity to share in this historical experience, one that is unfolding as you read this. Our history is being made every day; help us shape it. In this season of sharing, please give to our little Clinic by the Bay.