Dorothy Graham, MSW'74


Dorothy Graham has had a 40+ year career working as an advocate, planner and administrator to improve the health care system so that low income and medically indigent communities could receive the care they so desperately need.

Dorothy graduated Phi Betta Kappa from UC Berkeley in 1972, majoring in Sociology. She was awarded an MSW from the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare in 1974, in the Social Planning and Community Organization track which trained social workers as agents of social change.

While still an undergraduate, Dorothy and several other students founded a community mental health residential treatment program, Berkeley Place, which became a national model. She served as the program’s first administrator and now fifty years later, she still serves on the Berkeley Place Board.

Following Berkeley Place, Dorothy worked as Project Coordinator for a human services capacity building project for California State Association of Counties in Sacramento, Health Policy Analyst on the County Hospitals Project for Alameda County ‘and Senior Health Systems Planner designing a Social/Health Maintenance Organization for Senior Care Action Network (SCAN) in Long Beach.

She next returned to the Bay Area to become Director of the Alameda Health Consortium, the association of community clinics in Alameda County, where she was instrumental in designing the county’s clinic-based system of care for the medically indigent.

Dorothy then worked as the Hospital Planner for Alameda Health System, where she led planning of all hospital departments for services in a major new facility on the Highland Campus and developed new outpatient specialty services to expand access throughout the system.

Dorothy has held leadership positions on a range of community boards and commissions both locally, (e.g., City of Berkeley Community Health Advisory Commission and Alameda County Primary Care Council) and statewide, (e.g., California Association of Primary Care Clinics, California Health Federation and Health Access of California.)

Dorothy’s commitment to social justice and health care equity has been a lifelong passion. She was co-founder of Vote Health, the Alameda County coalition which advocated for single payer health care and strengthening the safety net. Dorothy was an early advocate of bringing AIDS services to the East Bay through the East Bay AIDS Response Organization. She was a leader in the 1994 effort to pass a single payer initiative in California, Proposition 186.

Dorothy is best known for founding the statewide Coalition to Stop Patient Dumping which fought a successful two year campaign to pass legislation to outlaw the dumping of unstable uninsured patients by hospital emergency rooms. The campaign culminated in 1987 with passage of Assemblyman Burt Margolin’s AB 214, considered the most significant patient protection legislation in decades.

Dorothy was named Alameda County’s Woman of the Year for healthcare in 2001 and inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. She was honored twice by the California State Legislature, for her achievement in passing landmark patient dumping legislation (1988) and on the 25th Anniversary of Berkeley Place (1996). She was named a Community Hero for Healthcare by Oakland City Council in 2007 for the successful campaign to stop aerial pesticide spraying of the Bay Area. In 2019 she received a lifetime achievement award for health advocacy known as the Bobbie Award from Lifelong Medical Care. Now retired, Dorothy lives in the East Bay and continues to advocate for Medicare for All in California and nationally.