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reed magazine logoWinter 2009
father and child

Father and child, 1968, photo by Ruth Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones

Moscow spent his junior year in Hyderabad, doing research on an experiment in village-level democracy—his thesis was called “Inequality and status in Indian rural development”—and returned to Reed in 1968.

That winter, he went back to New York for winter break and got work with the Urban Coalition writing a report on the city’s hospital system. In the process, he discovered Health/PAC, the policy advisory center started by activist Robb Burlage. “I fell in love with them,” Moscow says. In his final semester at Reed, he started his own research and action project, Health/RAP, along with roommate Robert Spindel ’70. Together they researched healthcare options in Portland.

“I had been involved in Portland from as soon as I arrived at Reed,” recalls Moscow, who participated in the DiGiorgio grape boycott in 1966. “I had no desire to be an island. There was a small group of us political people who did things off campus.”

After graduation, Moscow stayed in town, immersing himself in anti-war activities, getting arrested during the Fry Roofing strike, and launching Health/RAP. “I thought it would be really exciting to see how it carried over in Portland,” says Moscow, whose sights were set first on the Multnomah County Hospital, where it was hard to get an appointment and waiting room delays were endless. The need for clinics in the community was also clear to him; at the time, the sole county clinic was in the hospital itself, way up on “pill hill.”

Jon Moscow

Jon Moscow, c.1969
The Oregonian

To support himself, Moscow got a $20-a-week job writing for the Willamette Bridge, Portland’s alternative newspaper, and an indispensable venue for his own Health/RAP press releases.

When he got a call from Kent Ford, who contacted him at Hamerquist’s suggestion, the timing could not have been more perfect. Given the higher infant mortality rates among blacks, and shorter life expectancies, a collaboration with the Panthers was right there on Health/RAP’s platform.

Moscow soon had a space picked out: Dr. Webster Brown’s former clinic, at 109 N. Russell St., was available for $100 a month. The next step was to recruit some doctors.

Neurosurgeon George Barton ’55 was Moscow’s first volunteer. (There is more than one theory about how the two met. Sandra Ford, then married to Kent Ford, insists that Moscow went down the Oregon Medical Board list, calling Portland doctors until he finally found one—he’d reached the B’s—who was interested in helping the Panthers start a clinic. Barton, on the other hand, thinks they met at the Unitarian Church.)

Barton had worked in Tunisia from 1966 to 1968, serving in the Peace Corps with his wife and five children. “I worked in a neurosurgery ward, where I accomplished nothing,” he says. “But it was worth it to see an Arab society and experience the warmth and kindness of those people.”

After the Peace Corps, Barton volunteered with Outside In, a street clinic started in 1968 in response to the spreading use of drugs in Portland. He didn’t last long. “Because I told them the truth,” he says. “‘These are a bunch of rich kids pretending to be hippies.’ They fired me.”

reed magazine logoWinter 2009