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Two boys view a demolished block for construction of the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY

Shortly after I moved to Albany, NY as a college sophomore, I volunteered nights at the Washington Park Free Clinic, a walk-in facility run by Albany Medical School students under the supervision of licensed doctors. The clinic was in a ramshackle brownstone in a run down part of town, a couple of blocks away from the not-yet-finished Empire State Plaza (aka Rocky’s last erection, in honor of governor Nelson Rockefeller, who had conceived of the project.).

All services were free. My job was to answer the phone, staff the front desk, and conduct minimal intake. Clients came in, gave me their names and described their condition. I passed the information on to one of the med students, who took over from there.

One night a young woman came in who was in her final weeks of pregnancy. She was huge and this was her first visit to a doctor. She was led into an exam room and soon after the supervising doctor could be heard throughout the building scolding her apprentices. Who did they think they were crowding around this young women as if she were exhibit A? And how stupid could they be to have her on her back, her feet in stirrups at that late stage in her pregnancy? Did they want her to go into labor right there? One by one the doctors in training left the room, chastened.

On another occasion, five young women, housemates, were each diagnosed with a venereal disease. They had to disclose the names of all of their sexual partners so the carriers could be tracked down, treated, and prevented from infecting more women.

They all named the same young man.

A few days later, he arrived at the clinic, looking smug and relaxed.

His test was negative.

— sdl

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