The Clinic is Born
In 1924, an internal medicine physician named Russel Van Arsdale Lee moved to Palo Alto to join the two-man medical office of Dr. Tom Williams. It was in some ways an unremarkable decision: Dr. Williams offered a higher salary than what Dr. Lee made in San Francisco, and Palo Alto had preferential weather.
It seems unlikely that anyone could have predicted Dr. Lee's move would catalyze the creation of one of the most well-respected, well-known physician groups in the nation.
Dr. Lee's partner, Dr. Williams, had started the practice in 1906 in his Palo Alto home. He had grown up in West Virginia and come to California almost by chance, applying to Stanford University with a friend who wanted a change of scenery after breaking up with a girlfriend.
The couple reunited and the friend chose not to make the trip, but Dr. Williams came anyway. Fitting for someone who, it was said, could "throw a bull by the horns," he became a football star at Stanford and in 1897 was one of the university's earliest graduates.
He completed medical school at Columbia University and returned to the Bay Area, ultimately settling with his family in Palo Alto.
After World War I, Dr. Williams was joined by Dr. George Barnett, whom he had met while serving in Scotland. Working out of a building on the corner of Bryant Street and Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto, the doctors divided their cases: Dr. Williams handled surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, while Dr. Barnett took care of internal medicine and pediatrics.
The partnership lasted four years before Dr. Barnett decided to return to teaching at Stanford Medical School, where he trained students and residents – including nearly all of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic's early doctors – for more than 30 years.
Needing another person to help him with the practice, Dr. Williams recruited Dr. Lee away from the San Francisco practice of Dr. Harold Hill. Soon thereafter, the man who would be the creative force behind the Palo Alto Medical Clinic came south with his family.
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