Recollections of John Foster about early days of EHC (June 15, 2013)
EHC was founded in 1978, through the efforts of Dr. James Bates, who, along with Rowland French, were the city's two practicing physicians. They foresaw the need to attract younger doctors to the area and were aware of the doctor and dentist placement program sponsored by the National Health Service Corps, which is a part of the US Public Health Service.
After incorporation, we recruited both a doctor and a dentist from that program and set up our first medical practice on a vacant city lot across from what was then the Eastport Memorial Hospital, now the nursing home. That vacant land had been the site of the former Eastport Elementary School. It had conveniently, for us, burned down in a spectacular fire. The first medical office we set up in was a mobile medical van, loaned to us by the Aroostook County CAP agency. Three of us were young and crazy enough to go up to Aroostook County and drive it down to Eastport in the middle of the night.
Our dental office was set up in the wood framed building downtown across from the post office, now used as Skip Harris' dive shop, where we rented the first floor. The medical office in a van was from the beginning only a stop gap measure and after a couple months we moved down Middle Street to the vacant funeral home on corner of Shackford Street. There we expanded our staff to include a physician's assistant. We conveniently had a back room there still filled with caskets.
In 1980 we got the deed from the city for the land where we are now located.
We began applying for a federally-guaranteed loan to build the original small version of the clinic building we are now in. (It has twice since been expanded.) The Reagan administration had taken over in Washington and there was a freeze in effect on Public Health Service spending increases. I got to go to Washington to represent EHC in a meeting in Sen. George Mitchell's office where one of his staff members and one of Senator Cohen's staff members had jointly set up a opportunity to directly meet with the director of the Public Health Service in order to make our pitch for his agency's guarantee of the FHA loan. I remember being elated when in the middle of the meeting that fellow switched from saying "if we approve this project" to "when we approve this project". Although the money to build the first building was technically a loan, it was actually paid back by the public Health Service grant.
It is worth noting that Maine then had these two very powerful members of the Senate, and it was their backing, not my lobbying effort, that got the loan approved.
Jett Peterson remembers that a couple pf years later she hosted one of her fantastic luncheons at the Weston House where George Mitchell was our guest of honor, so EHC board members could personally thank Senator Mitchell for his help in helping us build our new Health Center building.