James J. O’Connell, MD

Assistant Professor, Medicine

James O'Connell
617.414.7779

Biography

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 11,000 homeless persons each year in two hospital-based clinics (Boston Medical Center and MGH) and in more than 45 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.

Other Positions

  • Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

Education

  • Harvard University, MD
  • University of Cambridge, BA
  • University of Notre Dame, BA

Publications

  • Published on 11/1/2021

    Sullivan MM, Lazowy EE, Roncarati JS, Koh HK, O'Connell JJ. Training Clinicians to Care for Patients Where They Are. AMA J Ethics. 2021 11 01; 23(11):E852-857. PMID: 34874253.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 10/13/2021

    Koh KA, Roncarati JS, Racine MW, O'Connell JJ, Gaeta JM. Unsheltered vs. Sheltered Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Health Care Spending and Utilization. J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Jun; 37(8):2100-2102. PMID: 34643873.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 7/1/2021

    Koh KA, Roncarati JS, O'Connell JJ. A Clinical Approach to Preventing Death on the Streets. JAMA Intern Med. 2021 07 01; 181(7):899-901. PMID: 34047781.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/1/2021

    Roncarati JS, Tiemeier H, Tachick R, VanderWeele TJ, O'Connell JJ. Housing Boston's Chronically Homeless Unsheltered Population: 14 Years Later. Med Care. 2021 04 01; 59(Suppl 2):S170-S174. PMID: 33710091.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/22/2021

    Wishik G, Gaeta JM, Racine MW, O'Connell JJ, Baggett TP. Substance consumption and intoxication patterns in a medically supervised overdose prevention program for people experiencing homelessness. Subst Abus. 2021; 42(4):851-857. PMID: 33617749.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/9/2020

    Baggett TP, Racine MW, Lewis E, De Las Nueces D, O'Connell JJ, Bock B, Gaeta JM. Addressing COVID-19 Among People Experiencing Homelessness: Description, Adaptation, and Early Findings of a Multiagency Response in Boston. Public Health Rep. 2020 Jul/Aug; 135(4):435-441. PMID: 32516035.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 3/10/2020

    Jain SH, Baackes J, O'Connell JJ. Homeless Special Needs Plans for People Experiencing Homelessness. JAMA. 2020 Mar 10; 323(10):927-928. PMID: 32053152.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/1/2020

    Koh KA, Racine M, Gaeta JM, Goldie J, Martin DP, Bock B, Takach M, O'Connell JJ, Song Z. Health Care Spending And Use Among People Experiencing Unstable Housing In The Era Of Accountable Care Organizations. Health Aff (Millwood). 2020 02; 39(2):214-223. PMID: 32011951.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 1/1/2020

    Roncarati JS, O'Connell JJ, Hwang SW, Baggett TP, Cook EF, Krieger N, Sorensen G. The Use of High-Risk Criteria to Assess Mortality Risk among Unsheltered Homeless Persons. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2020; 31(1):441-454. PMID: 32037341.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/16/2018

    Angoff GH, O'Connell JJ, Gaeta JM, De Las Nueces D, Lawrence M, Nembang S, Baggett TP. Electronic medical record implementation for a healthcare system caring for homeless people. JAMIA Open. 2019 Apr; 2(1):89-98. PMID: 31984348.

    Read at: PubMed

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