NEWPORT, R.I. – For nearly 30 years, Newport native Jim O’Connell, M.D., has been moonlighting in the streets of Boston, where he’s saving lives and helping a broken segment of the population to feel whole again.
The work of O’Connell and his extraordinary medical team is the subject of a documentary film by Jeff Schwartz, “Give Me a Shot of Anything: House Calls to the Homeless,” which will be presented at Salve Regina University on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Bazarsky Lecture Hall, located in O’Hare Academic Center on Ochre Point Avenue.
Sponsored by the university’s Mercy Center for Spiritual Life and the Office for Community Services, the movie is open to the public. Admission to the program is a canned, non-perishable food item that will be donated to the Martin Luther King Center.
O’Connell will be in attendance to introduce the film and host a question and answer session at its conclusion.
“At nighttime when everyone else goes to bed, that’s when you can tell who’s been staying out on the streets,” O’Connell says. “It’s probably the most opportune time to come out and take care of people who are really street folks.”
There are over 8,000 homeless men, women and children in Boston each night. Many suffer from chronic medical conditions – disease, drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness. The film follows O’Connell and his team of doctors and assistants as they track down the city’s homeless and offer them what in many cases is life-saving medical care. The film also lifts the curtain on a part of Boston that few of us know or think much about.
“People don’t really want to see what’s going on,” says one of O’Connell’s homeless patients in the film. “They have a blind eye.”
O’Connell says some of the people he treats are quickly dismissed by the public as addicts. “But all of a sudden you see the person behind it – and it’s those stories and relationships that keep us involved,” he says.
Canvassing the parks, back alleys and streets of Boston, and building on relationships he has formed over three decades, O’Connell likens it to wartime medicine. He patches up those he can, and offers others with more serious illnesses a way to escape before it's too late.
O’Connell is a Harvard Medical School graduate and president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program that he helped found in 1985 after completing his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.
For more information on the film screening at Salve Regina, contact Chris Gosselin, minister of music and social justice, at email@example.com.