Clinic by the Bay Provides Medical Care for the Bay Area’s Working Poor

Clinic by the Bay

Make It Better Media Group founder Susan B. Noyes recently hosted a Fireside chat with Sarah Gordon, executive director of Clinic by the Bay, a Make It Better Foundation Bay Area Philanthropy Award winner. The two discussed the clinic’s efforts to provide medical care to the working poor of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Gordon told Noyes about the clinic’s mission as one of only two free clinics in the city of San Francisco, and how it’s serving those who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal and don’t make enough money to buy private insurance. 

Clinic by the Bay is 100% privately funded and primarily staffed by volunteers who take responsibility for everything from front desk reception to patient care. Since opening its doors in 2010, the clinic has offered medical services to more than 23,000 individuals. Eighty percent of the patients are first generation immigrants.

Through an affiliation with Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), the clinic has access to the services of retired physicians, nurses, educators and others to provide comprehensive primary care to the uninsured and underserved. To date patients have benefited from 10,000 hours of care valued at $3 million. 

“Clinic by the Bay practices the art of medicine, not the business of healthcare,” Sarah explained. “No other organization in the Bay Area does it like we do. We’re truly a unique model.”

She outlined what care looks like: With the goal of supporting the whole person, a typical visit takes 30 minutes to an hour and may include medical intervention, preventive and ongoing care, wellness exams, mental health counseling, and health education and coaching. Clinic by the Bay promotes nutritious eating for patients with chronic conditions through its Food Pharmacy program.

 When asked what the future holds for the clinic, Sarah said: “The clinic recently acquired the former Alemany Emergency Hospital on Onondaga Avenue as our future home. We’re looking forward to moving in 2023. In this larger space we’ll be able to provide more services to more patients including free dental care.”

Watch the virtual event here:

How to support Clinic by the Bay

Clinic by the Bay needs your support. “We live in a resource-rich area, but there is really high need,” Gordon said. “Eighty thousand people here are uninsured. We can’t do what we do without the support of our community.” Here’s how to help:


 No special knowledge or experience is needed for many positions including receptionists, prescription assistants, community outreach and other roles. 

“Anyone can volunteer,” Gordon explained. “Hours donated by medical and nonmedical volunteers double our operating budget for free services provided to our patients.” 

Make in-kind donations 

Fifty percent of Clinic by the Bay’s operating budget is met through in-kind donations, which may include medications, supplies for exam rooms, cleaning supplies, needles and syringes. Contact the clinic for more information on how and what to donate.

Provide financial support 

    “Clinic by the Bay does not accept any financial support from the U.S. government or any health insurance companies, so financial donations have the maximum impact,” Gordon said. Here’s what your donations can do:

  • A $100 donation to the clinic’s Food Pharmacy could feed a patient for one month. 
  • A $1,000 donation could help to support the vaccination program and provide all available vaccinations. 
  • A $10,000 could provide diagnostic imaging services or equip an exam room at the Alemany facility.

To learn more about how to support Clinic by the Bay, contact Sarah Gordon, [email protected], 415.405.0207.