When Dr. Walter Reiss arrived in Lodi in 1962, the town had 13 doctors.
Now, 48 years later, he's one of more than 125 physicians in what is more commonly called a city. Over the years, he has volunteered countless hours, providing medical care for those who could not afford it.
When local health officials decided to expand and move a Lodi clinic, they thought it was only fitting to name it after Reiss.
On Wednesday evening, he saw for the first time a plaque mounted on the building at 300 W. Oak St. — the new home of the Walter E. Reiss Outreach Clinic.
"I'm very humbled, and I hope I deserve it," he told a rather large crowd of people who gathered for an official ribbon cutting and open house.
"You do," several people called out in response.
The event was well-attended, with many from the medical profession as well as those who have known Reiss for years — including San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel, who had Reiss for a family doctor years ago.
The clinic provides basic health care to those who have no insurance and don't qualify for public assistance. The recently passed national health care policy won't actually go into effect for some time, and in the meantime plenty of people need medical help for illnesses, sprains and infections.
For 14 years, the clinic had operated in the Salvation Army building on Sacramento Street. But quarters were cramped, and the Salvation Army couldn't spare any space, said Lt. Dan Williams.
Meanwhile, the clinic was seeing more patients, in large part due to the economic downturn, said Catherine Hernandez, who oversees the clinic.
Two years ago at a Lodi Memorial Hospital community advisory committee meeting, someone raised that concern. Bill Mitchell, director of San Joaquin County's Public Health Department, was there and had an idea: The county runs a public health clinic in Lodi, but it doesn't need all the space in the building it owns.
So, after more talks and multiple health license matters, the county's Board of Supervisors signed off on the deal. Lodi Memorial won't have to pay rent for the building, but they'll share the costs of utilities and maintenance.
Public health — which offers free or discounted rates on vaccines and disease testing — still has room for its needs. Meanwhile, patients with health problems can see a doctor or physician's assistant in the back of the same building.
Patients can get medical attention on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, though health officials dream of eventually expanding those hours.
The new space has a hallway with seats, serving as a waiting area, a reception room with file cabinets for medical records, and three exam rooms. The old digs at the Salvation Army had one exam room, meaning that everyone had to wait while staff sanitized the room in between patients, Hernandez said.
Funding for the clinic comes from the Department of Health Services, a grant from Health Care Evaluators, the United Way, the Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation and private donors.
Doctors volunteer their hours at the clinic, following in the footsteps of Reiss, who has spent many years offering a little medical help to the homeless and uninsured.
"These doctors are in it for the people," Hernandez said. "It doesn't matter what they're wearing or who they are."
About the Walter E. Reiss Outreach Clinic— Located in the public health building at 300 W. Oak St. Patients should enter from the south entrance off Pleasant Avenue.
— Open Mondays at 1 p.m., Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and Thursdays at 4 p.m.
— A maximum of 12 patients are seen each day, in order to give each one enough time.
— It replaces the clinic that operated for 14 years in the Salvation Army, where everyone agreed quarters were too cramped.
— The acronym, WEROC, is pronounced "We rock."