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Thesis (M.S.)

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Clinics, Small group, Leadership


In early December, 1971, I was one of eight people who met in a community center in Amherst, Massachusetts. We had all come in response to an ad, placed by one of those present, in a local newspaper. The ad called for anyone interested in setting up a free clinic to come to an organizational meeting that evening. This was to be the first meeting of a group that set itself the task of planning and opening a free clinic in the Pioneer Valley area. The term "free clinic" has no precise definition since it encompasses a wide range of different types of health care facilities. In general, these facilities provide medical services (although counseling, psychiatric and educational programs may also be involved), and they provide these services either at low cost or without cost to the person seeking help. Within these bounds however there is room for tremendous variation among free clinics in the range of services provided, the nature of the patient population (some clinics serve women or minority groups exclusively), the structure and organization of the facility, the relationship between professional and non-professional staff, and the political consciousness and activity of the staff as a body.