Harvard Alumni Allyship Series: A Conversation with Tracy Kidder, AB ’67 and Dr. Jim O’Connell, MD

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Harvard Club of Boston in partnership with the Harvard Club of Ireland and Harvard Medical School

Harvard Alumni Allyship Series

NYT Bestseller Rough Sleepers: A Conversation with Tracy Kidder, AB ’67 and Dr. Jim O’Connell, MD ’82

On Wednesday, July 12th we invite you to join us for a special and compelling conversation between Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning writer Tracy Kidder, AB ’67, author of the “Rough Sleepers,” and Dr. Jim O’Connell, MD ’82, a trailblazer in caring for the city’s homeless people. For 40 years, O’Connell has dedicated his life to working to improve the lives of inhoused individuals by providing compassionate continuity of care. O’Connell is a founding physician of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) and an organizer of its street team, which offers outreach to the hundreds of homeless people who avoid the city’s shelters and live mainly outdoors – often called “rough sleepers,” a term borrowed from England. Today, O’Connell and BHCHP staff continue to make house calls on the unhoused, serving more than 11,000 people annually. For five years, Kidder shadowed O’Connell and his team, including nocturnal van rides ministering to “rough sleepers”. Kidder’s latest book, “Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People,” recounts O’Connell’s career shift in 1985 from an impending oncology fellowship at New York City’s prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital to helping create the Program, of which he is president today.


About James J. O’Connell, MD ’82
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 (MGH). 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 13,000 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 September, 1985, with 25 beds in 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 the freestanding 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 the feature-length documentary Give Me a Shot of Anything. 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 has collaborated with homeless programs in many cities in the USA and across the globe, including Los Angeles, London, and Sydney. Dr. O’Connell’s book Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor was published in 2015 in celebration of BHCHP’s 30th anniversary. Dr. O’Connell is president of BHCHP and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

About Tracy Kidder, AB ’67
Tracy Kidder has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Award, among other literary prizes. His books include Mountains Beyond MountainsStrength in What RemainsThe Soul of a New MachineHouseAmong SchoolchildrenOld Friends, Hometown, and A Truck Full of Money.



Registration is required for this complimentary event to ensure that you are provided with the log-in credentials for the Zoom webinar. You will receive the login credentials approximately 3 hours prior to your event, they will not be included in the automatic confirmation email you receive upon registration. Credentials will be sent to the email address provided upon registration.

One complimentary pass per person. Valid on July 12, 2023 only.  Registration will close approximately 24 hours prior to the event to allow for the login credentials to be shared. This invitation is non-transferable.


Date & Time

Wednesday, 12 July 2023