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Medical News & Perspectives
August 15, 2017

Half-century After “Summer of Love,” Free Clinics Still Play Vital Role

JAMA. 2017;318(7):598-600. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.8631

Growing up in Bakersfield, California, in the 1950s, the grandson of Oklahoma farmworkers, David Smith, MD, had never envisioned himself as an activist. But in 1967, when Smith lived in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and worked as a clinical toxicology postdoc, the growing counter-culture revolution of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll “hit right where I lived.”

He recognized that the flower children flocking to San Francisco during the Summer of Love needed health care that was free not only of cost but also of harsh judgment directed toward their lifestyle, whether it was their drug use or their funky clothes. Although most people are familiar with the saying “health care is a right, not a privilege,” relatively few know that Smith coined it back in 1967.