Essential Pittsburgh
6:39 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Dr. Jim Withers: Bringing Healthcare to the Streets

Credit Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

There is a doctor in Pittsburgh that still makes house calls, to a certain extent. For more than 20 years Dr. Jim Withers’s house calls have brought healthcare to the homeless.  What began as a nightly service in 1992 has become the non-profit, Operation Safety Net.

"I was just frustrated with the gap between how healthcare looks at people and how much each person's own reality is unique to them," says Withers.

He works and teaches in the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and says he realized that he needed to leave his comfort zone in order to learn how to become a better doctor.

"All I really knew was that from a position where folks had to work on my terms, they had to come to me, or the system really. I wanted to kind of end run that go all the way out, become Robin Hood if you will, become part of the community out there, part of that was just my existential thinking and I was thinking about this the other day, I think I wanted to be treated like a human being.”

Withers warns that there are many dangers in his work but he says he's found something very special on the streets. "After I got to be known, I’ve never had so much love from a group of people as the folks on the street." Learn more about Dr. Withers' work with this audio slide show by photographer Martha Rial for the Catholic Health Association.