Chapter 1: The Footsoak, August 1985

A sea of reluctant faces stared intently as I entered the Nurses’ Clinic at Pine Street Inn for the first time in early July of 1985, barely two days after finishing my residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). During the month of June I had served as the senior medical resident in charge of the Bigelow Intensive Care Unit, the bustling hub that cares for the hospital’s most complex and desperately ill patients.

Buoyed by the sense of invincibility that accompanies such passages, I strode into New England’s oldest and largest shelter, containing over 700 beds and located barely six blocks from the hospital, with a swagger that drew a stern grimace from Barbara McInnis and the other nurses. After four years of medical school and three years of residency, I had thought my training was finally over. My education in homelessness and poverty was just beginning…

Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor
by Dr. Jim O’Connell