Street Doctor: How Jim O’Connell learned to shelve the stethoscope, and listen

BU Research

Jim O’Connell, president of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program and a member of the Boston University School of Medicine’s general medicine division, has spent his career as a “street doctor,” caring for homeless people on the sidewalks, benches, and bridges where they live. O’Connell had originally planned a career in oncology, but after completing medical school at Harvard and a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he decided to spend a year working at a handful of health clinics for the homeless at places like Boston’s Long Island Shelter and the Pine Street Inn. “After four years of medical school and three years of residency, I had thought my training was finally over,” writes O’Connell in his memoir Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor. “My education in homelessness and poverty was just beginning.”

BU Research spoke to O’Connell about slowing down, opening up, and how losing his stethoscope made him a better doctor.

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