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Celebrating the Past

Growing along with Portland

A black and white photo of a busy street in historic Portland, Oregon.

Portland was only a small town at the time, but the founders of The Portland Clinic were thinking big when they formed Oregon’s first group medical practice in 1921. Still, they couldn’t have predicted how rapidly their venture would grow.

Gaining fast acceptance and immediate popularity, the multi-specialty practice quickly outgrew its space in downtown Portland’s Stevens Building and had to move to larger quarters. In 1926, the partners leased the top two floors of Portland’s newly built Mayer Building. Here, they had the space to add new associates in several specialties and to bring them together, for the first time, with X-ray, laboratory and business departments, a reception area, file rooms, a library and a lounge.

The clinic continued to grow and flourish for several years, only to stall when the Second World War erupted and physicians left to serve in the military. In 1946, as the physicians returned and other doctors clamored for space, the partners looked to expand once again. Since a scarcity of building materials ruled out new construction, the group purchased the former Roseland Hotel, a four-story building located at Southwest 12th and Yamhill.

Our 500 staff members, including 100 physicians and providers, now cares for almost 90,000 patients in the greater metropolitan area.

It took extensive remodeling to transform the guest rooms into exam rooms, and funds for the remodeling went only so far. Mike Schwab, who worked at this location as the assistant to the clinic’s first administrator before becoming its administrator and CEO, recalls seeing a large box covered with magazines in one of the doctors’ offices. “What’s under the box?” he remembers asking. “A hotel bathtub!” the doctor responded. Nevertheless, the practice thrived, and for the first time, The Portland Clinic had a home of its own.

In addition to practicing medicine, The Portland Clinic’s founders loved to teach, and they all assumed leadership positions at the University of Oregon Medical School, now known as Oregon Health & Science University. There, they recruited many fellow faculty physicians who were eager to join their fast-growing clinic.

Through the years, they also continued to welcome ever-increasing numbers of patients. By 1974, the downtown location was once again bursting at its seams, and plans were drawn up to knock down the hotel building and replace it with a modern new home. The new 48,000-square-foot building was the clinic’s first facility designed, from the ground up, as a medical clinic. It still serves as The Portland Clinic’s central office today.

Branching out

A decade after constructing the new downtown office, the clinic added an on-site day surgery center to the facility — the first in Oregon outside of a hospital. This was a new concept in health care, allowing patients to avoid overnight hospital stays for many procedures and to return home the same day. The convenience and cost savings made it an immediate hit.

As Portland expanded into the suburbs, patients wanted more conveniently located primary care, as well. The clinic responded by opening its first branch location in Beaverton in 1986, and then quickly expanding it to meet overwhelming demand from more than 500 patients a month.

A second branch, the South office, opened to serve the Lake Oswego area in 1990. It, too, quickly caught on and soon had to move to a larger space.

In 2002, the clinic established its Tigard medical campus. Starting with a clinic, it added the Alberty Surgical Center, named after longtime provider-partner Roger Alberty, M.D., in 2007.

Historically a westside practice, the clinic opened its first of three eastside locations in 2010. Those merged in 2018, moving into a new, 24,000-square-foot facility on NE Sandy Boulevard and becoming The Portland Clinic-Northeast. The design of the Northeast branch was another milestone in innovation, incorporating Lean design principles and serving as a veritable preview of the future of multi-specialty health care. With its absence of waiting rooms, its large, comfortable exam rooms, and a nutrition-focused Basics Market on-site, the Northeast branch won immediate approval from an ever-growing number of patients.

“The Portland Clinic has simply grown with the city, and it’s been incredible,” says chief executive officer Dick Clark. “Our 500 staff members, including 100 physicians and providers, now care for almost 90,000 patients in the greater metropolitan area. We’re happy to have been trusted by Portland for 100 years, and by patients who’ve been with us so long that they feel like family.”

That family is still growing, and we are proud to be a part of it.