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Dr. James J. O’Connell, president and founding physician of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, will receive an honorary degree from the College of the Holy Cross and address this year’s graduates during the College’s Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 26, at 10:30 a.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester. Dr. O’Connell has dedicated his medical career to caring for Boston’s homeless. His leadership has contributed to the growth of the BHCHP since its founding in 1985 to become the country’s largest and most comprehensive program of its kind, serving more than 12,000 homeless people a year in two hospital-based clinics and more than 60 shelters and outreach sites. Throughout his 30 years at the helm, Dr. O’Connell has continued to serve on the team of doctors that meets patients on the streets, offering food and warm socks, medical treatment and the support of trusted friends. 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 from 1989–1996. In addition to publishing articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Circulation, American Journal of Public Health and Journal of Clinical Ethics, he is the editor of “The Health Care of Homeless Persons: A Manual of Communicable Diseases and Common Problems in Shelters and on the Streets” (BHCHP Press, 2004). He published his first book, “Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor” (BHCHP Press), in 2015. The recipient of numerous awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award in 2012 and the Trustees’ Medal at the bicentennial celebration of Massachusetts General Hospital in 2011, Dr. O’Connell is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Cambridge University and Harvard Medical School.

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Worcester, Massachusetts


College of the Holy Cross, graduation


Arts and Humanities | Higher Education

2017 Commencement Address: Dr. James J. O'Connell



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