Quentin Young, a Chicago doctor and social activist who protested against segregated hospitals, was a personal physician to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights figures who came through the Windy City, and was an advocate for promoting decent health care for all, died March 7 at a daughter’s home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 92.
His death was announced by Margie Schaps, who worked with Dr. Young at the Chicago-based Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, an organization Dr. Young founded. No specific cause was disclosed. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called Dr. Young — a former president of the American Public Health Association and the universal-health-care advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program — “a relentless advocate of fairness and justice for all citizens.”
Quentin David Young was born in Chicago in 1923. His father, a Russian immigrant, operated a construction company, and his mother was from Lithuania.
“My parents were liberal and uncommonly permissive in letting us pursue what we wanted,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Drawn to left-wing political groups, he dropped out of the University of Chicago to enlist in the Army in World War II with the aim of combating fascism.
Following his discharge, he received his medical degree from Northwestern University, then became a trainee on the staff of Cook County Hospital. His experience treating botched back-alley abortions led him to become a vocal advocate for legalizing abortion.
“It’s not a choice of abortion or no abortion, but safe abortion or unsafe abortion,” he told the Sun-Times.
While establishing a medical practice in the Hyde Park neighborhood, he also immersed himself in social activism.
He worked to desegregate Chicago hospitals in the 1950s and marched with civil rights workers in the 1960s. Dr. Young helped lead the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group of health professionals who provided medical care for civil rights and antiwar demonstrators. He helped treat protesters beaten by police during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
That year, he was asked to appear before a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was examining the disruption of the convention. A member of the panel asked if Dr. Young was a communist.
“My answer to the question is that it is an unconstitutional invasion of my rights and under these circumstances I would never answer,” he said. “I chastise the chair for daring to ask me that question.”
After filing suit against the FBI, he discovered that the agency had monitored him for nearly 30 years; he was also the subject of intense scrutiny by the Chicago Police Department’s “red squad.”
In 1972, Dr. Young was named director of medicine at Cook County Hospital, which was in turmoil over labor disputes. Amid a strike by interns and resident doctors in 1975, Dr. Young threw his support to the protesters, and the hospital’s governing board fired him. He sued successfully to regain his position.
According to the Sun-Times, he left in 1980 after accusing the county of “malignant neglect” of the hospital. He later served as personal physician to Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and author Studs Terkel, and was former governor Pat Quinn’s doctor, becoming his adviser and friend. In August 2001, Quinn and Dr. Young embarked on a 167-mile walk across Illinois to promote universal health care.
The relationship raised questions at times when Quinn, who maintained a tight circle of advisers, appointed him to state posts. Dr. Young withdrew as chairman of the state’s health facilities planning board after a conflict of interest was discovered. Dr. Young had minority interest in a doctor’s office that owned property being leased to a health-care system.
He had five children with his first wife; their marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, Ruth, died in 2007. A list of survivors was not immediately available.
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