Jim Withers

  • Founder, Operation Safety Net

In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers set out single-handedly to deliver care to street people in Pittsburgh. He started by doing his homework – clocking hours in the library, reading how to best gain entry to the world of the homeless – before suiting up one... More

In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers set out single-handedly to deliver care to street people in Pittsburgh. He started by doing his homework – clocking hours in the library, reading how to best gain entry to the world of the homeless – before suiting up one night in tattered clothes. “I was rubbing dirt in my hair,” he says. “My kids thought I was crazy.”

But street folks embraced him, Withers says, and he them. “I found great professors of medicine – and life – in alleyways and abandoned buildings, on riverbanks and under bridges.”

His initial project gained patients, volunteer clinicians and students to the extent that, in 1993, Withers officially launched Operation Safety Net under the auspices of not-for-profit Mercy Hospital, which kicked in $50,000 to fund the start-up. Operation Safety Net today offers round-the-clock availability of paramedics, primary care physicians, registered nurses, podiatrists, dentists and the formerly homeless, as well as medical students and residents serving clerkships.

(Above quoting L.B. Hunt in “Modern Physician.”)

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Jim Withers's Presentations

Gel Health 2009 October 2009

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Concierge healthcare for the homeless: Bringing healthcare directly to the homeless, as Dr. Jim Withers describes in this Gel Health talk, is difficult but rewarding. As a founder of the global street medicine movement, and the subject of the... More

Concierge healthcare for the homeless: Bringing healthcare directly to the homeless, as Dr. Jim Withers describes in this Gel Health talk, is difficult but rewarding. As a founder of the global street medicine movement, and the subject of the documentary "One Bridge to the Next," Dr. Withers has accomplished a great deal - both in his home city of Pittsburgh with Operation Safety Net and throughout the world in dozens of cities now maintaining street medicine practices.

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