Dr. O’Connell graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1970 and received his master’s degree in theology from Cambridge University in 1972. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1982, he completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1985, Dr. O'Connell began fulltime clinical work with homeless individuals as the founding physician of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which now serves over 12,000 homeless persons each year in two hospital-based clinics (Boston Medical Center and MGH) and in more than 60 shelters and outreach sites in Boston. With his colleagues, Dr. O’Connell established the nation’s first medical respite program for homeless persons in 1985, with 25 beds nested within the Lemuel Shattuck Shelter. This innovative program now provides acute and sub-acute, pre- and post-operative, and palliative and end-of-life care in BHCHP’s 104-bed Barbara McInnis House. Working with the MGH Laboratory of Computer Science, Dr. O’Connell designed and implemented the nation’s first computerized medical record for a homeless program in 1995. From 1989 until 1996, Dr. O'Connell served as the National Program Director of the Homeless Families Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dr. O’Connell is the editor of The Health Care of Homeless Persons: A Manual of Communicable Diseases and Common Problems in Shelters and on the Streets. His articles have appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Circulation, the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Clinical Ethics, and several other medical journals. Dr. O’Connell has been featured on ABC’s Nightline and in a feature-length documentary entitled “Give Me a Shot of Anything.” His first book, Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor, was published in 2015 and featured on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He has received numerous awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award in 2012 and The Trustees’ Medal at the bicentennial celebration of MGH in 2011. Dr. O’Connell is president of BHCHP and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Barry Bock joined BHCHP in 1990 and has served as chief executive officer since 2013. Bock, a nurse by training, is responsible for the overall administration of the program. Previously, Bock served as Chief Operating Officer, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the program. Mr. Bock has worked in homeless health care since 1979. In 1986 he was one of three nurses to develop the Morning Nurses' Clinic at Pine Street Inn in Boston. He then served as clinic administrator until 1990, when he came to Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. When the Barbara McInnis House was established in 1993, Mr. Bock served as the director, overseeing all aspects of the respite program. He has published and lectured on the impact of the Affordable Care Act, respite care and on HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases in shelters.
Jessie M. Gaeta, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, supervising the medical practice of BHCHP's physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. She most recently served as the medical director for BHCHP’s Barbara McInnis House medical respite program from 2009-2015. Dr. Gaeta has strong clinical interests in respite care, medical education, and supportive housing. Her work in our respite program focused on designing systems that promote quality health care, collaborating with local hospitals, and improving end-of-life care for homeless persons.
Dr. Gaeta recently helped design a supportive housing program for the highest utilizers of Boston Medical Center’s Emergency Room and has led BHCHP’s efforts in responding to the substance use disorder crisis. Dr. Gaeta earned her medical degree at University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Pooja Bhalla, DNP, RN serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the program and has the overall responsibility for the clinical and program operations, developing and implementing policies and procedures that result in quality health care for homeless individuals and families. In conjunction with the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bhalla oversees quality improvement and utilization management for the program. Dr. Bhalla is a graduate of Simmons College of Nursing, where she received her BSN in 1997. She received her Master’s in Leadership, Health Policy and Nursing Administration in 2014 from Northeastern University. She recently received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at Northeastern University and her research focus is on “Emerging Leaders and Homeless Health Care.”
Dr. Bhalla joined BHCHP in 1997 and has worked with the homeless population since the beginning of her nursing career. In 2002, Dr. Bhalla, along with the Director of Clinical Operations, led the efforts in establishing shelter clinics throughout the city to bring health care to homeless individuals. Today the program operates over 50 clinics throughout the city. Throughout her tenure, Dr. Bhalla has focused on bringing innovative practice models of care, such as walk-in access for behavioral health visits and access to preventive care measures during patient encounters. Dr. Bhalla is a member of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and chair-elect for the steering committee of the clinicians network for the council.
Ms. Leung is responsible for planning, monitoring and reporting on the financial operations of the organization. She is also closely involved in long-term strategic program and financial planning. Prior to receiving her Master of Health Care Administration and working in finance, Ms. Leung was a special education teacher in Hong Kong. She also holds degrees from York University, Toronto and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Ms. Leung joined Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program in 1995.