As the 1960s came to a close in San Francisco, the 1970s brought with it the grim reality that had gripped many inner cities at the time. Substandard housing, chronic illness, high crime, and social isolation were rampant amongst older adults. 

A native San Franciscan and founder of the Curry Senior Center, Dr. Francis J. Curry had always focused his medical brilliance on the vulnerable and impoverished citizens of the City. His passion for viewing everyone as equals, rather than charity recipients, was developed from his life experiences facing struggle alone.

Dr. Curry contracted tuberculosis at 25 years old and spent three years recuperating in a hospital, only to be hit by a car the year of his release, forcing another year in a hospital to heal his broken body. During the Korean War, his studies at Stanford Medical School and research as Captain in the U.S. Army honed his prowess in chest diseases. He used this knowledge to develop the tuberculosis treatment used worldwide today, for which the Curry International Tuberculosis Center at UCSF is named in his honor.

With TB spreading rapidly in the ’50s, Dr. Curry provided free testing at Saint Anthony’s Dining Hall to support the health of those struggling and without medical care. This act manifested into the Saint Anthony’s Medical Clinic, which would become the model for Dr. Curry’s neighborhood clinics citywide, providing medical treatment and meals. The clinics would be known for their patient-centered, compassionate treatment, fostering dignity to those unable to access hospital care, the backbone and mission of Curry today.

Dr. Curry mastered his medical expertise as Director of Chest Clinic at SF General Hospital (1956-1974), Chief of the TB Division (1960-1974) and Clinical Professor (1972-1973), and Associate Professor (1978-79) at UCSF Medical School. In 1984, he was awarded UCSF’s highest honor to recognize his contributions to health education, community health care, and public service.

In 1970, Dr. Curry was appointed San Francisco’s Director of Public Health, which he would hold for six years. Given his actions in government, Dr. Curry was targeted by the New World Liberation Front, a small California-based militant anti-capitalist group. In 1976, he was #4 on their Most Wanted List. Even so, he refused police protection at his home and driver service to his job at City Hall, leaving him to check his car for bombs every morning. 

As Health Director, Dr. Curry used his pioneering talents to design a modern medical wing at  SF General Hospital Medical Center,  testified at the U.S. Congress Subcommittees hearings on his success addressing the City’s growing issues of drug addiction, malnourishment, and elder care, and ultimately, established his most dear and fulfilling accomplishment – 333 Turk, now Curry Senior Center. 

Understanding the need for a permanent location, Dr. Curry established a private medical clinic, North of Market Senior Services, to obtain public funding from the 1972 Older Persons Act and purchased the building to secure the location so that it would never be lost due to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

For 50 years, 333 Turk and its expansion, 315 Turk, has provided primary healthcare services and other social services, such as meals, housing, case management, health, wellness and technology classes, and social programming for isolated seniors.

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