Recognizing a Partnership with Patients at the Center

Dr. Jim O’Connell and CEO Barry Bock with Dr. Jim O’Connell Awardees: Kate Walsh, CEO of Boston Medical Center and Dr. Peter Slavin, CEO of Massachusetts General Hospital.

At no time in these past three decades have we felt more fortunate or more blessed by the two hospitals that have been our bedrock partners since the summer of 1985.

Our relationships with Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital are unique in the country, and distinguish BHCHP from all of the other 250 health care for the homeless programs across the country. By sharing our mission, these academic teaching hospitals have incorporated our health care of homeless persons into the fabric of their own daily clinical mission to assure excellence in the care of our most vulnerable neighbors. The quiet legacy of BMC and MGH, two world-class institutions, to serve our patients is a truly singular commitment that has withstood the test.

Our extraordinary partnerships with BMC and MGH helped us survive the early crucible of AIDS and tuberculosis in the 1980s that devastated those in shelters and on the streets. Together, we took great pride in working side by side with the staff of the BMC multidisciplinary HIV clinic and with the BMC pulmonary doctors and the staff of the City of Boston’s Communicable Diseases Division in our shelter clinics.

As we expanded the number of our clinics within Boston’s shelter network, coordination of care across the multiple clinic sites became crucial. MGH stepped in to create for us the first electronic medical record for homeless folks in 1995 that set a national standard and presaged the future of mainstream medicine. As we witnessed the premature mortality rates of our street patients, MGH opened a clinic space for us to care for our rough sleepers and helped us fully integrate medical and psychiatric care for this sub-group of the homeless population with funding for a fulltime psychiatrist to go to the streets with our team.

The care of people struggling with homelessness along with the complex burdens of co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and substance use issues has emerged as a formidable challenge in the evolving world of health care financing. BMC and MGH recognize the challenges we face and hold the welfare of this vulnerable population as integral to our shared missions. With such graciousness, they have always saved a seat for us at the table in discussions about complicated health care financing issues. We have embraced their compassion and generosity with profound gratitude and deep pride, and are keenly aware of how fortunate we are to work as their partner in crafting a mutual vision for the future of care for homeless persons has been beyond wonderful.

We were overjoyed to recognize this inspiring leadership at our Medicine That Matters Gala in May by giving the Dr. Jim O’Connell Award to Kate Walsh, President & CEO, BMC and Peter L. Slavin, MD, President, MGH. The Dr. Jim O’Connell Award is presented to a unique individual in the health care field who embodies the spirit of BHCHP and assures excellence, dignity, and compassion in the medical care of homeless individuals and families in Boston.

We are so very grateful to both BMC and MGH for sharing our mission to bring the best in health care to the very fringes of our communities, and we continue to work tirelessly with BMC and MGH with them for our patients and the community of Greater Boston.

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