50 years ago in the midst of the Civil Rights and the Black Power Movements, four African American mothers launched The West Oakland Health. It immediately rose up as a neighborhood hub for healthcare, food and housing programs, and voter registration. West Oakland Health was a spark that led the transformation in community health and advocacy in California and the nation. 

Today, West Oakland Health reaches throughout the East Bay with five sites in Berkeley, West Oakland, and East Oakland. Providing high quality, state-of-the art healthcare, comprehensive adult and family medicine, West Oakland Health honors Its storied history and embraces its legacy values: love, hope, respect, health, and community. 

A group of West Oakland residents created the West Oakland Health Center to meet the health needs of the nearby community.

In the fall of 1966, Robert Stone, M.D., returned from Boston, Massachusetts with an idea, the idea that there could be a place in West Oakland at which West Oakland residents could receive health care services. While in Boston, Dr. Stone learned that Boston’s Tuft University Medical School had opened two health centers in communities, which had very few health care services, one in 1965 in Boston and one in 1966 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The health centers had been placed where the people who needed the services were. 

Dr. Stone discussed with Rev. Evan Golden who had a church in West Oakland. Rev. Golden spoke to Ms. Cloteal Davis, an African American resident of West Oakland. Ms. Davis invited Rev. Golden to speak at a PTA meeting at Clawson Elementary School in West Oakland.

After Rev. Golden’s presentation, Ms. Davis and Ms. Olivia Parks, both of whom worked at Clawson, decided to see if there was interest in among other residents in trying to have a health center in West Oakland. Ms. Davis and Ms. Parks recruited Ms. Jessie Hamilton and Ms. Edith Brown to assist them. These four women are considered the founders of the organization.

The founders were joined by a few others, and in the spring of 1968 had a 12 member Board of Directors, who were:

  • Ms. Cloteal Davis
  • Ms. Olivia Parks
  • Ms. Jessie Hamilton
  • Ms. Edith Brown
  • Ms. Jessie Capels
  • Ms. Novella Haliburton
  • Ms. Viola Johnson
  • Ms. Elb McMahan
  • Ms. Geraldine Robinson
  • Mr. Booker Emery
  • Rev. George Robinson
  • Mr. Ralph Williams

With the assistance of Rev. Golden and a University of California graduate student working with him, and in consultation with officials of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Regional Office in San Francisco, the non-profit corporation applied for and received two federal grants and a federal loan which allowed the corporation to purchase land and to have the West Oakland Health Center constructed, furnished and equipped.

The West Oakland Health Council was organized in 1967 to improve the accessibility, quality and comprehensiveness of health care services in West Oakland. Its formation reflected a grassroots response to the lack of medical providers in West Oakland, the high cost of medical services, and the high levels of illness and premature death in the area. Established as a nonprofit corporation, the Council began operations in 1969 with land donated by the city of Oakland, support from the Economic Development Administration for the construction of it first facility, the West Oakland Health Center, and a five-year grant from the U.S. Public Health Service for operating expenses.

Dr. Stone, who had an office a few blocks from West Oakland and was a volunteer at Highland General Hospital, had a few West Oakland residents in his private practice and saw many West Oakland residents in his volunteer practice at Highland Hospital. A visit to the hospital was a half of a full day trip, and with children, the trip was even more challenging.

In January 1968, Dr. Stone and Darnley Goodridge, M.D. who had an office in West Oakland organized a group of 25 health care practitioners who agreed to work with the Council and to support its efforts to open a health center in West Oakland. Dr. Stone was the Council’s Medical Director until the summer of 1968 when the Council hired Dr. Darnley Goodridge as its Health Care Coordinator.

On October 20, 1968, the Council began doing business as the West Oakland Health Center, providing medical, dental, mental health, optometry, pharmacy, laboratory, x-ray, health education, social services, physical therapy, and transportation services in West Oakland to West Oakland residents and to any other person who went to the Health Center for services. The fees for services were based on a patient’s ability to pay for the service received.

The Council was, and still is, governed by a Board of Directors. The majority of the Board of Directors are consumers (patients) of the Council.

The founders of the Council were motivated by a desire to have health care services that were available, accessible, affordable and culturally sensitive to the residents of West Oakland, their families and their neighbors.

Development Milestones


The West Oakland Health Council is organized


The West Oakland Council becomes incorporated in December 1967


The West Oakland Health Council submits an application for funding


West Oakland Health Center Opens for Service

Dr. Isaac Slaughter becomes Director of Mental Health Services


Robert Council is hired as CEO of West Oakland Health Council

Substance Abuse Treatment Services Initiated


Robert Council is hired as CEO of West Oakland Health Council

Substance Abuse Treatment Services Initiated


Herzog Residential Substance Abuse Service Opened

Mental Health Services Initiated


East Oakland Health Center Acquired (7501 International Blvd. Oakland)



A.J. Thomas Medical Clinic & William Byron Medical Clinic Opened


First Step Residential Substance Abuse Program Opened


Berkeley Adult Day Health Center Opened


New East Oakland Health Center Opens (7450 International Blvd. Oakland)


Substance Abuse Services moves to 3007 Telegraph


West Oakland Health Council becomes accredited by the Joint Commission JCAHO


First Step Residential Program Closes


Herzog Residential Program Closes


New Residential Substance Abuse Program opens 428 28th Street



Mr. Benjamin Pettus Jr. is hired as new CEO

New Optometry Department Opens


New Pharmacy Opens in East Oakland Health Center


New Dental Department opens at the West Oakland Health Center


Mr. Preston DuFauchard is hired as new CEO

Dr. Robert Cooper, a native of the West Oakland community was initially hired as the Health Services Director in 1969, but shortly after he became the CEO of West Oakland for over 4 decades.

Dr. Cooper provided leadership to the Council and was known an advocate for comprehensive patient care, as well as a strong advocate for Health Education. The Joint Commission of Accreditation of Health Care Organizations accredited the West Oakland Health Council in 1999.

In the early years of West Oakland Health Council Dr. Isaac Slaughter became the Director of Mental Health Services and Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery Programs. Dr. Slaughter (1969 – 1995). Dr. Slaughter was a strong advocate for Mental Health issues and Substance Abuse. His voice in the community was one of respect and advocacy for what many believed was a taboo subject matter.

Dr. Isaac Slaughter was a pioneer in this field and community. His leadership was one where he believed that mental health and substance abuse recovery services were important to address and that our community needed therapists, psychiatrist and counselors that were culturally sensitive and competent to serve our patient population.

During 70s and 80’s West Oakland Health Council became active in Community outreach. West Oakland staff, providers and health workers were common guests to participate and community health fairs, neighborhood festivals and school based presentations. West Oakland Health Council partnered with the Oakland Unified School District by providing on sight vision and dental screenings to elementary schools in the flatlands of Oakland. In addition, the Health Education Department flourished under the leadership of Gayle Quinn, Director of Health Education. A few of the Health Education Programs that were popular in the 70’s and 80’s included:

  • Family Life Education – Sex Education
  • Dental Education & Screening
  • Substance Abuse Education
  • Vision Screening
  • Tobacco Education
  • HIV/AIDS Education & Testing

These programs and services were in high demand and became a popular request in the elementary, middle and high schools in Oakland. In addition, The Alameda County Probation Department collaborated with West Oakland to provide health education to the boys and girls camps.

West Oakland Health Council became the recipient of several county and state grants that targeted certain populations within the scope of the funding. Some of the programs included but not limited to include:

  • Black Infant Health Project
  • Child Health & Disability
  • Colo-Rectal Screening
  • Diabetes Initiative
  • Tobacco Cessation Program
  • WIC
  • AIDs Education Project
  • Every Woman Counts

West Oakland Health Council continued to thrive in the 80’s and 90’s. The Council had grown to several additional service sites. At one time, there were numerous service sites under the umbrella of the West Oakland Health Council. In the early years, mental health and substance abuse services had multiple sites in downtown and in the West Oakland zip code.

In Spring of 2016, Mr. Benjamin Pettus Jr. was hired as the Chief Executive Officer for the Council. Mr. Pettus was instrumental in turning the Council around from a period when the Council was not sufficiently attentive to the program requirements of its federal regulator. Mr. Pettus passed away in March of 2019.

In February 2019, the Board of Directors named Mr. Preston DuFauchard as the new CEO for the West Oakland Health Council. Mr. DuFauchard is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Council who stepped down to become the CEO for WOHC on an interim basis in August 2018.

Today The West Oakland Health Council continues to grow as a nonprofit community health center with four sites providing primary care, women, children and infant care, behavioral health, substance abuse recovery services and an oral health program to residents of West, North and East Oakland, Emeryville and Southwest Berkeley. WOHC continues to be the go-to community health center for the African American community in Alameda County while also embracing the diversity in the region, welcoming Middle Easter, Latino, LGBTQ as well as the homeless community. The current leadership is committed to forging strong non-profit and government partnerships to make WOHC more than a health center, but rather a one-stop community wellness hub and socioeconomic engine for the region.

In addition to providing the highest quality, full spectrum of medical care, WOHC also envisions a full complement of other services that are proven social determinants of health, such as safe neighborhoods, access to health fresh food, job training and internships, and affordable housing.

WOHC mission is to improve the health and socioeconomic status of communities by providing the highest quality preventive care and treatment for diverse neighbors throughout the East Bay. WOHC strives to be the hub of health, well-being, connection and inspiration.

CEO’s of West Oakland Health Council

  • Robert Council
  • Dr. Robert Cooper
  • Benjamin Pettus Jr.
  • Preston DuFauchard