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Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences

Student Work Spotlight


Little girl at health clinic

History students unearth the past of a local medical clinic.

When Elizabeth Nix, assistant professor, learned that the early days of the People’s Community Health Center—which opened a new site on Maryland Avenue just up the street from UB in 2011—were relatively unknown, she seized the opportunity to explore its origins as the People’s Free Medical Clinic in her history methods course, HIST 300: Exploring the Past .

Nix’s undergraduate students teamed up to interview physicians, patient advocates, lab technicians and mental health counselors—all volunteers—who had worked at the clinic in the 1970s. They conducted some interviews in person and others by phone and by Skype from Texas and California. At the time of the clinic’s origin, most of the interviewees had been young professionals dedicated to breaking down the barriers between patient and provider and to promoting their motto, “Health Care is a Right, Not a Privilege.”

Those who worked at the clinic donated one evening per week of free medical care to the Waverly community. The medical professionals reached consensus on all of their decisions and insisted that all patients had an advocate who accompanied them during their visits to help them understand their condition and the doctors’ instructions. Tuesday nights were “Women’s Nights,” reserved solely for treating women. The clinic has been credited with greatly reducing the rate of STDs in the Waverly community.

History student Beverly Bowers worked this past summer to combine and edit transcripts of the students’ interviews, nine of which have been submitted to Langsdale Library’s Special Collections. At the project’s completion, Langsdale’s collection will include 20 oral histories, photographs and articles.