October 15, 2012 - James (Jim) O’Connell, MD to Receive Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism Nov. 2
Patrice Taddonio, Communications Manager
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship
***Click here to view this press release as a Word document.*** Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program Founder Earns Prestigious Honor; Will Speak at Schweitzer Leadership Conference
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF), a leadership development and
community service program that trains graduate students to create change
and improve health in vulnerable communities, will present James (Jim)
O’Connell, MD with the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism
on Friday, November 2.
“Jim is a tireless champion for dignified, compassionate, and skilled
health care for some of our most vulnerable neighbors,” says Robert
Lawrence, MD, Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
Health, Chair of the Schweitzer Prize Selection Committee, and a
Schweitzer Prize laureate himself. “We are honored to present him with
this prize in recognition of his advocacy for—and direct service
to—people experiencing homelessness.”
O’Connell is the founder and president of Boston Health Care for the
Homeless Program (BHCHP), and has provided care for medically vulnerable
street dwellers for more than 27 years. O’Connell and BHCHP have
embraced the Housing First approach to ending homelessness, and as a
result, O’Connell’s street practice has evolved into something
resembling that of an old-fashioned country doctor: he makes regular
house calls to previously street-dwelling patients, many who have a roof
over the heads for the first time in decades.
“You can’t wait for them to come to you, you have to go to them,”
said O’Connell, who teams up with a psychiatrist for the visits. “A lot
of our patients do the same thing they did on the streets, they isolate
themselves. You have to check in on them regularly.”
O’Connell is helping England’s National Health Service figure out how
to better deliver care—and, eventually, housing—to its street patients,
and regularly travels to Los Angeles to work on the same issues,
focusing on Skid Row. A tool based on his research into the risk factors
that lead to street dwellers dying prematurely is used in 65 U.S.
cities and towns to prioritize who gets housed first.
“Jim has touched the lives of his patients, the lives of our
Schweitzer Fellows, and the lives of the countless other health
professionals he has inspired to make a difference, to adopt the model
of care Jim developed in Boston, and to extend the reach of the example
he has set,” Lawrence says. “We are thrilled that he will be joining the
group of humanitarians who have previously received this prize.”
O’Connell will be honored with the Schweitzer Prize at a reception on
Friday, November 2 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, MA. He will
also speak at the Schweitzer Leadership Conference the following day in
the same location. Conference registration is open through Oct. 19 via www.schweitzerfellowship.org/conference.
Previous Schweitzer Prize honorees include presidents Jimmy Carter
and George H.W. Bush, Marian Wright Edelman, and C. Everett Koop. The
prize recognizes an individual whose life example has significantly
improved the health of people in the United States and/or abroad, and
whose commitment to service influences and inspires others.
About The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship
Originally founded in 1940 to support Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s medical
work in Africa, TheAlbert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) is improving the
health of vulnerable people now and for the future by developing a corps
of Leaders in Service—professionals skilled in creating positive change with and in our communities, our health and human service systems, and our world.
Through programming for graduate students that combines
community-based, mentored direct service projects and multidisciplinary,
reflective leadership development training, ASF is building community
capacity and training a professional workforce that is:
- skilled in addressing the underlying causes of health inequities;
- committed to improving the health outcomes of underserved communities; and
- prepared for a life of continued service.
To date, nearly 2,500 Schweitzer Fellows have delivered nearly
500,000 hours of service to nearly 300,000 people in need. Additionally,
more than 100 Fellows have provided care at the 100-year-old Schweitzer
Hospital in Lambaréné, Africa.
Through this work and through the contributions of the 99 percent of
Fellows whose professional careers serve their communities, ASF
perpetuates the legacy and philosophy of famed physician-humanitarian
Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
ASF operates 13 program sites nationwide. Its national office is located in Boston, MA and is hosted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. To learn more, visit www.schweitzerfellowship.org.
About Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program
Founded in 1985, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP)
has been driven by a singular, powerful mission — to provide and assure
access to the highest quality health care for Boston’s homeless men,
women, and children.
Over the years, BHCHP has evolved into the largest and most
comprehensive health care for the homeless program in the country,
delivering services to more than 11,000 homeless men, women and children
a year at more than 80 shelters and sites. For more information, visit www.bhchp.org.