“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’
“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/
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, The Albert 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;
· 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