November 26, 2022

Heal Me Healthy

The Trusted Source For Health

Remembering Fred Strauss, co-founder of one of nation’s first gay clinics

6 min read
Fred Strauss. Credit rating: Lili Shidlovski

The Berkeley Free of charge Clinic’s longest serving volunteer, and co-founder of a single of the nation’s initial and longest-working gay men’s health clinics, Dr. Fred Strauss, handed absent at his house in Oakland on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. He was 72. He took on HIV patients early in the AIDS epidemic and fought for LGBTQ reproductive rights. Fred was a compassionate service provider, connecting with, listening to, and teaching both equally individuals and colleagues. In his 48 yrs in medication, he was a wonderful, gentle, and caring mentor and friend to numerous. 

Born on Oct. 8, 1948, Fred grew up the youngest of 4 brothers in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where his parents ran a grocery retailer. His upbringing was guided by Jewish cultural traditions introduced by his family’s recent immigration knowledge alongside tales of Entire world War II survival, main to his lifelong adore of Jewish comedy and comfort and ease foodstuff. Fred’s early curiosity in problem fixing and puzzles drew him to UC Berkeley in the late 1960s to analyze math and computer system sciences. As a student he labored as a residence advisor in the campus’ men’s dorm, Bowles Hall, the place he fostered lifelong friendships. 

Soon after graduation Fred labored for a short period of time as a public college math instructor in the East Bay prior to determining to return to the college to analyze drugs. He was accepted into just one of the initially cohorts of the UC Berkeley – UCSF Joint Medical Program. It was through this time in 1973 that Fred began volunteering with the Berkeley Totally free Clinic (BFC). “It appeared like it had been there eternally,” Fred reflected for the duration of the BFC’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2019, “but it had only been all around for four years.” 

Fred beloved and felt rewarded by the grassroots variety of healthcare care practiced at the volunteer-run BFC. He was element of the workforce which recruited and experienced group members to get the job done, under the steerage of medical practitioners, to just take on regimen examinations for factors these types of as colds, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and minimal cuts or wounds. He aided run the clinic’s lab in his early many years, assisted in clinic administration, and became a medic and the coordinator in the Health care Area, all before graduating from medical college.  

While functioning as a BFC medic in late 1975, Fred observed a customer who had an STI that he had contracted at a gay men’s bathhouse. The shopper experienced absent to Kaiser for support, only to be bodily assaulted by a homophobic medical doctor. As a bisexual who had sought non-judgmental sexual healthcare himself, Fred knew that this client’s expertise with homophobia in wellbeing care was far more the rule than the exception. Immediately after Fred aided that client find a supportive service provider, the customer bought back in touch, and together with other people they built a sexual intercourse-optimistic STI clinic for the gay and bisexual group. 

On a Sunday in 1976, Fred and the crew of gay and bisexual neighborhood members they experienced qualified, opened the Homosexual Men’s Well being Collective (GMHC) for solutions. The shifts ended up in the evenings, and later on all the volunteers would go out for meal collectively, producing a non-bar social room for volunteers and generating perform relations sense additional like a spouse and children. It was a person of the very first community-operate homosexual/bi men’s STI clinics (two identical, unconnected programs opened in NYC about this exact same time, and an additional opened in Washington, D.C., a handful of several years later), and the only a single from that period we are knowledgeable of that proceeds to function today. Apart from for a closure at the commencing of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GMHC has been open up just about every Sunday given that its founding and has seen hundreds of individuals for STI screening, counseling, and treatment method. The system has allowed hundreds of queer volunteers to get expertise and inspiration at the GMHC to go on to occupations in nursing, drugs, study, and social products and services in the U.S. and abroad. 

Right after graduating from health-related college, Fred commenced a career as a physician at San Francisco’s Wellness Middle 1, later renamed the Castro-Mission Well being Center, which grew to become an epicenter for managing San Francisco’s AIDS epidemic. Regardless of unknown challenges of doing the job with the then-unresearched virus, Fred experienced his family’s support to perform tirelessly in San Francisco and at the GMHC with individuals affected by HIV at a time when survival was a lengthy shot. Fred continued to provide persons dwelling with HIV throughout his vocation with the San Francisco Division of General public Health. 

In the 1980s Fred and several GMHC volunteers formed a private clinic to deal with situations of genital warts that have been also complicated and time consuming to handle at the BFC. The wart clinic operated for a variety of several years in the off hours at a women’s wellness middle in Oakland, turning no clients away for lack of resources.  

Fred Strauss in the early 1990s. Credit score: Lili Shidlovski

Fred supported the world’s initially queer sperm financial institution, exactly where he served as Healthcare Director. The plan allowed homosexual donors and lesbian recipients to access sperm financial institution services they couldn’t access elsewhere. For a lot of years, Fred was also Professional medical Director at the BFC, and immediately after retiring from the SFDPH, he ongoing to preserve his clinical license to provide as a medical professional for the Berkeley Cost-free Clinic. 

When Fred retired from the Castro-Mission Well being Heart in 2013, one particular of his patients explained him as an “AIDS hero” who not only championed non-judgmental wellbeing care but did so with compassion and respect. “Fred in no way pushed me to get on an AIDS cocktail until eventually I had excellent health-related reasons to do so, welcomed me bringing published questions to and using notes in the course of consultations, observed the worth in alternative therapeutic procedures such as acupuncture and Reiki, and was a legitimate companion in my wellbeing care shipping and delivery.”

In retirement, Fred continued to assistance with the rollout of the electronic health care documents program for the SFDPH, and got accredited as a tax preparer so that he could directly help lower-money persons and families obtain cost-free tax help.

Fred was identified with carcinoid most cancers in 2001, and received cure in the type of a lot of surgeries and experimental radiation therapies. By the time his cancer became terminal in 2020, he experienced fought it for 20 a long time. Near the finish of his lifetime, Fred fought to get an pricey cancer drug, Sandostatin, cleared for palliative use so that men and women in hospice could access it to alleviate their signs and symptoms and improve comfort and quality of life. The day ahead of he died, he and his spouse, Mary, received a connect with to say their attempts had paid out off, and that others on hospice likely forward will be equipped to accessibility the medication by way of their insurance policy or by way of a compassionate accessibility software recognized by the producer.   

Fred had two children, Tessa and Jesse, with his initially spouse, Lili Shidlovski. As a happy and loving Zeyde (grandfather in Yiddish), Fred and his second wife, Mary Dermody, savored time with Tessa and her spouse Micaela Reinstein’s twins, At any time and Jude. Fred was the stepfather to Mary’s daughter, Mirae. Fred liked to sing with his pals in the Everything Goes Refrain, to hike in the East Bay Regional Parks, and to backyard garden. In his final yr, he viewed Tv set displays and comedy from his childhood and regularly asked for the Jewish consolation foods of his youth – raisin challah and matzo ball soup. He died in his home, dressed in a tie-dye t-shirt, surrounded by relatives. If people are intrigued in honoring Fred, the family encourages them to make a donation to the Berkeley Totally free Clinic and be aware that it is to aid the perform of the Gay Men’s Well being Collective.   

Fred with his small children, Jesse and Tessa in 2021. Credit score: Micaela Reinstein

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