It is with sadness that we learned of the passing on July 22 of Dr. Walt Newman Jr., 71, who spent many years as consulting medical advisor/director for the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan, the joint union-management fund providing quality health care for United Farm Workers members under union contracts.
A 4th generation Californian whose family hailed from the farming town of Newman, Calif., Dr. Newman graduated from Stanford University and then the University of California San Francisco Medical School. He applied his training as a “country doctor” in a personalized, caring manner by practicing in the then-emerging community of San Jose. To better serve his patients, Dr. Newman became fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, Tagalog, Farsi, and Vietnamese.
Later, he specialized in occupational medicine to minister to agricultural workers. He worked for years as medical director at Monterey Mushrooms in Watsonville and Morgan Hill, one of the nation’s largest fresh mushroom producers whose workers are protected by UFW contracts. In addition, he spent many years as advisor/director for the RFK medical plan.
Recently, Dr. Newman played a key role in establishing the Stanford Medical School partnership with the UFW Foundation, UFW, and Cesar Chavez Foundation, which organized vaccine clinics for farm workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Stanford medical school students and Dr. Newman provided care across the Central Valley and Central Coast. He often interacted with medical students on late night Zoom calls when farm worker movement organizations were planning for the vaccination program.
In addition to his private practice at Newman Medical Group, Dr. Newman taught at Stanford and UCSF medical schools, devoting himself to mentoring and inspiring students to provide health care in underserved communities. He also motivated young people and believed in their potential.
He is survived by his mother, Ellen Magnin Newman, and his brother, John D. Newman.
The farm worker movement extends its genuine sympathies to the Newman family and will long remember Dr. Newman as a kind person who cared deeply about our cause.
Dr. Walt Newman Jr. (in wheelchair) posed with UFW Foundation staff and Stanford medical students and faculty at the Cesar Chavez Foundation’s Govea Gardens affordable housing community in East Bakersfield.