I initially volunteered at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco. It is dedicated to helping people who could not afford a regular doctor, or who felt marginalized by the conventional medical system. It gave me an early introduction in to the amazing power of modern medicine, and the great practitioners who work in it. On the other hand, it showed me how poorly the system of medicine actually serves people. Even great institutions like the free clinic seem always to be teetering from one crisis to the next, never being able to move people into a higher state of health.
I still loved the patients and the people I worked with. I started treating simple medical problems at the Berkeley Free Clinic, as a lay health worker. This is a unique designation which uses careful protocols to help nonmedical practitioners diagnose and treat simple illness. Before I went off to medical school, I also helped found the Street Level Health Project, which brings a free clinic to some of the poorest areas of Oakland, California.