In It Together
On a day that needs some good news and in remembrance of Kelly Thomas, meet Dr. Jim Withers, a soft-spoken internal medicine physician who has become known as The Street Doctor over 20 years of treating Pittsburgh's homeless people where they live. Profiled in a new video from Nationswell, which seeks to tell stories of American renewal, Withers started out in 1992 partnering with a former homeless man turned-outreach-worker who let Withers tag along if he promised not to dress like a doctor or act like a jerk. Today, they are still together, working with a team of almost 20 clinicians, volunteers and medical students for what has become the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System's non-profit Operation Safety Net, one of the country's first full-time street medicine programs and a model for similar programs in about 85 communities. To date, Withers has treated over 1,200 people, seeking them out five nights a week in alleys, under bridges, in McDonald's when it's cold and there are decent managers on duty who will let them stay. What he's learned: "There are as many paths to the street as there are people out there," and "everybody matters."