In 1902, Valentine Prichard, supervisor of the Portland Public School kindergartens and Caroline Ladd and her daughter Helen Ladd Corbett reported on the deplorable conditions of women and children in north Portland. Miss Prichard and a staff of workers visited homes to decide what could be done to help them. By 1904, the People’s Institute was organized and providing services both to men and women.
Five years later, Dr. Clarence J. McCusker made a report to the University of Oregon Medical School about free medical care being given at the People’s Institute. The faculty responded by offering to affiliate with the clinic, providing equipment and services. A joint meeting of the People’s Institute and UOMS in 1910 resulted in fourteen physicians being assigned to staff the institute, newly named the Portland Free Dispensary.
Attendance became compulsory for medical students in 1913. A Free Baby Clinic was added and under the direction of Drs. Noble Wiley Jones and T. Homer Coffen, administrators of the department of medicine at the school, new specialty clinics were established: a cardiac clinic directed by T. Homer Coffen, an endocrine clinic run by Homer P. Rush, a diabetic clinic under the direction of J. R. Montague and Blair Holcomb and a tuberculosis clinic coordinated by Ralph and Ray Matson and Marr Bisaillon.
The dispensary quickly became overcrowded but it was not until 1931, that a gift of $400,000 from the General Education Fund of New York made it possible to move the clinic to the medical school campus. The money was given with the understanding that the Portland Free Dispensary would turn over its work and financial resources to the medical school. The four story Outpatient Clinic was built, and the dispensary medical services were transferred to these new and modern facilities.
Contributed by Karen Peterson, Archivist, OHSU Historical Collections & Archives