This Date in UCSF History: Campus Group Organizes for Civil Rights Protection

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Originally published on May 27, 1966. The Committee for Independent Political Action, a recognized on-campus political organization, has announced plans for Project South Help, a program to bring improved medical and dental care to Black residents of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The C.I.P.A. was created last fall by two first year medical students, Ronald Levant, and Gary Bowman, to heighten student awareness of socio-economic and political problems facing the new generation of health sciences personnel.

A strong conviction of the group is that medical care is a right, not a privilege, and that ensuring equal rights in medical care is as much a responsibility of the medical profession as is the dispensing of such care.

The C.I.P.A. plans call for 15 volunteers from the San Francisco area (doctors, dentists, and health sciences students), who will work for 10 weeks or more in the Deep South, attempting to make more and better health care available through existing institutions, and trying to make minority groups more aware of health care to which they are entitled.

The C.I.P.A. program is part of a larger national effort coordinated by the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which sent a number of volunteer physicians into the target areas in 1965, to lay the groundwork for this summer's project.

In all, 60 volunteers will participate, and they will work in areas where they have been specifically requested by local organizations such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the Louisiana Freedom Democratic Party, and the Black Panther Party of Lowndes County, Alabama.

The first aim of the volunteers will be to assess the health needs and resources of the community. Next, workers will tell the people about care which is available, and the steps which they can take to be eligible.

Thirdly, fundamentals of hygiene, birth control, venereal disease control, oral hygiene and allied subjects will be taught, and local people will be urged to seek medical and dental help at the early stages of any ailment.

If obvious racial discrimination appears to be in practice in public facilities, volunteer physicians and dentists will bring the problem to the attention of local practitioners in an effort to make them more responsive to the needs of the minority community.

The volunteers will also attempt to organize the community so that they can speak for themselves on this issue after the project has ended.

To date, six health science students and one laboratory technician from the San Francisco area have volunteered for Project South Help, and the C.I.P.A. feels that there is a good chance that they will have the fifteen workers they need by the time the project begins in mid-June.

The only serious question, in the Committee's estimate, is whether or not Bay Area physicians and dentists will be available.

Three or four thousand students attended the rally, responding warmly to the playing of The Sopwith Camel, a popular folk rock group, and to a description of Project South Help.