Twenty-Five Years Of Service
Twenty-five years of visionary activism—and still going strong. The Los Angeles office of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR-LA) started in 1980 out of a small shared office on Pico Boulevard near La Brea. Reagan had just been elected and talk of “winning a nuclear war” filled the news.
“It’s remarkable how much we accomplished right from the gate,” says Richard Saxon M.D., who co-founded PSR-LA with wife, Pauline Saxon, “and how quickly we grew.”
A year after its founding, PSR-LA hosted a symposium on the medical consequences of nuclear war at the Bonaventure Hotel. Over 3,000 people attended. The conference literally jumpstarted Los Angeles’ nascent anti-nuclear peace movement.
“At the time of Reagan’s huge military build-up, my daughter was born, and like many Americans, I felt an new urgency to safeguard innocent human lives from the senseless military and political schemes coming from the White House,” recalls PSR-LA Secretary William Perkins M.D. “The symposium’s many medical experts presented overwhelming scientific facts showing how the detonation of even a single nuclear weapon would be an unparalleled disaster for human health. I was eager to join the physicians who were making it part of their medical careers to educate the public about how nuclear weapons must never, never be used.” Indeed, PSR-LA’s award-winning film, “Race to Oblivion,” and diplomatic trips to the Soviet Union, Germany, China, Kazakstan and Great Britain were key contributions in the 1980’s.
In no time PSR-LA grew to become the largest PSR chapter in the nation, playing a leading role in national, state, and local policy efforts. In 1989, the chapter broadened its public health mission to include environmental issues when we hosted a national symposium on global environmental threats. It comes as no surprise that PSR-LA has become widely recognized for our unique ability to provide science-based resources on air and water quality, toxins, energy and transportation as well as keen insight into environmental justice.
In the 1990’s PSR-LA was a leader in forestalling, and ultimately eliminating, the benightedly placed Ward Valley radioactive waste dump— mere miles from the Colorado River.
In 1994, PSR-LA organized UC Irvine medical students to protest (and ultimately drive out-of-business) Southern California’s Saturday Night Special hand-gun manufacturers. PSR National subsequently launched their own violence prevention program. PSRLA has now trained hundreds of physicians and medical students to identify and counsel those individuals most at risk of gun injury.
“When I think back over the years, what stands out most to me is people—the amazing physicians and community members I’ve worked with who gave their all to the organization and the cause,” said PSR-LA Board President Jimmy Hara M.D. “I think of Pauline Saxon’s great contribution as our first director. And then there were the great volunteers: D. Brown M.D., Tim Hayes M.D., Bob Rufsvold M.D., Sam Roth M.D., Fred Segal, Sam Sperling M.D., Trula Thompson, Eleanor Wasson, Linda Velasquez M.D. and Fred Yorra M.D. And I recall people like Sue Blumenthal, Mary Clarke, Sol Londe M.D., Lenore Ray and Bea Sperling – members who contributed so much and have since passed on. This 25-year-strong organization is an important part of their legacy.”
“Peace and disarmament remain crucially important – that’s why I recently joined LA’s board of directors” says Curren Warf M.D., “PSR has a great past, but I’m excited about what we can do here and now.”