Original photographer:
Wayne Miller
Wayne Miller

Bill Ganzel


Dr. David Smith – "Drugs: A Young Doctor's Crusade"

From the LOOK caption: "David Smith saw human beings crippling themselves with drugs in San Francisco. He offers help, but the self-destruction spreads. He wonders:'Where do I go from here?'" In this photo in the Golden Gate Park, Smith listens and learns from a young man on LSD. Smith now describes these talks as "research." San Francisco CA, August 1967, photo by Jim Marshall.

Dr. David Smith in the Golden Gate Park, December 2012. He has lived and worked within a mile of the Haight Ashbury area since the 60s. Photo by Bill Ganzel.

All original material © 2006-2013 by Bill Ganzel, all rights reserved.

Dr. David Smith

In the summer of 1967, thousands and thousands of young people descended on the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco drawn by the promise, frankly, of sex, drugs and rock and roll. They found a dynamic music scene and, too often, bad trips and gonorrhea. A local fan of the music, Dr. David Smith "discovered" that he cared about the kids. Dr. David Smith started a free clinic to treat their medical problems.

The clinic struggled until the local newspaper wrote a positive article. Bill Graham started promoting benefit concerts to help pay the bills. Then, in August 1967, LOOK Magazine did a five-page article as part of a special edition about drugs in America. Smith now says that the LOOK article changed everything. After the LOOK article, contributions came in.

In the 1967 photo by Wayne Miller, Dr. Smith was listening to a young man on a bad LSD trip. Smith now says he felt like he was doing field research. In another set of photos, a woman named Susan was being treated. Years later, the same Susan called Dr. Smith to tell him she had her life on track, in part because of his treatment and care.

In the early 1970s, Smith and his colleagues were shocked when the Nixon administration pushed through a drug law that emphasized the treatment of drug addicts, not jail time – a law that was written by Nixon aide Jeff Donfeld. The law was surprisingly liberal. Smith was surprised again when the free clinic applied to the Nixon anti-drug program for funding to support their programs. The were awarded a million-dollar grant that helped assure the viability of the clinic. For this project, Dr. Smith and Jeff Donfeld met in Los Angeles, and they found common ground between the liberal and the conservative.

Dr. David Smith and the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic