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Keeping Portland Healthy for 100 Years and Counting

In celebration of its centennial anniversary, The Portland Clinic continues to give back to the communities it’s long cared for, ensuring patient wellness for years to come.

Presented by The Portland Clinic By Ben McBee October 14, 2021

Historic downtown Portland – Broadway Theatre District

It was 1921. The engines of shiny new automobiles, and indeed the decade itself, were roaring to life. Portland’s growth was fixed firmly upward, and as the populace grew, so did the need for health care. In those days, physicians ran solo practices, only seeing patients at their homes or in hospital beds — a model that would quickly become inadequate in a rapidly-changing world.

Throughout its history, Portland has certainly seen its fair share of pioneers and trailblazers, but any list would be incomplete without the four men who teamed up to revolutionize medicine and set the town on the path toward better health.

The Portland Clinic’s founders (clockwise from left): Drs. Noble Wiley Jones, Thomas Joyce, Laurence Selling and Frank Kistner (seated.)

Breaking from the norm, four medical doctors, Noble Wiley Jones, M.D.; Thomas Joyce, M.D.; Laurence Selling, M.D.; and Frank Kistner, M.D., established the first physician-owned, multi-specialty group practice in Oregon. Providing collaborative treatment and patient-centric investigation, they opened the doors to what today lives on as The Portland Clinic.

Over the next century, the group flourished alongside the city, and consistently pushed the boundaries of the medical field. When Dr. Jones returned from a sabbatical in London in 1924, he brought with him a portable electrocardiogram machine, the first known EKG in Portland, and in 1947, the clinic implemented an after-hours answering service to increase access to the clinic on evenings and weekends. As people began moving to the suburbs, new locations launched in Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Tigard, and the East Side, as did state-of-the-art surgery centers, to meet the ever-expanding demand.

Today, The Portland Clinic is still physician-owned, led by people who live and work beside the patients they serve. They truly have a deeper understanding of how improving the health of the community doesn’t stop when their patients walk out the door. Out of that ambition to do more, the group set up The Portland Clinic Foundation.

North by Northeast Community Health Center, one of The Portland Clinic Foundation’s grant recipients, offers culturally-specific primary care services to Portland’s Black community and is dedicated to advancing health equity.

About 90,000 patients receive care each year through its clinics, “but we don’t want to stop there,” says Dick Clark, The Portland Clinic’s CEO. “We want to go beyond that. The foundation is an opportunity to serve our community in a different way, through strategic partnerships with quality nonprofits doing their own good work. It’s become an extension of our mission to serve the community and support wellness.”

The 100th anniversary of The Portland Clinic is undoubtedly a milestone worth celebrating. However, it also coincides with one of the most devastating events in its history — the COVID-19 pandemic — and the support the foundation offers has never been more important. To commemorate the clinic’s centennial and to rise to such unprecedented levels of need, a record $100,000 in unrestricted grants was awarded in 2021 to 36 nonprofit organizations in the Portland metropolitan area.

For one of the recipients, North by Northeast Community Health Center, the funds were vital to protecting populations with a higher risk of contracting and dying from the coronavirus. “We are especially aware of how invaluable the trust we have built with the African American/Black community has been during the pandemic,” says Executive Director Suzy Jeffries. “Our patients and community members have needed a trusted resource to turn to over the past year for COVID information, testing, care advice, and vaccines, as well as support for daily needs like food and financial assistance.”

The foundation’s 35 other grant recipients provide equally-meaningful services across a diverse range of sectors. Grantees include Boost Oregon, Portland Food Project, Wisdom of the Elders, The Living Room, Sexual Assault Resource Center, and Family of Friends Mentoring.

In 1974, the clinic moved into a newly constructed facility at 800 SW Yamhill Street in downtown Portland.

“The foundation’s 2021 partner nonprofits are working to improve some of our community’s most pressing challenges: advocating for racial, gender, disability, and generational justice, and providing much-needed food and housing security, equitable health care, resources for struggling students, a community for those who have been isolated, and so much more,” says Kris Anderson, executive director of The Portland Clinic Foundation. “We are grateful to everyone who supports our work and, as a result, the work of our amazing grantees.”

In just five years, The Portland Clinic Foundation has given back a total of $310,000 to 72 nonprofits, a positive impact that even the forward-thinking founders might find difficult to imagine.

To learn more about The Portland Clinic’s long history and its impact on our local community, visit The Portland Clinic Centennial.