Dr. Jim Withers, founder and medical director of Operation Safety Net, will receive an honorary doctoral degree during Carlow University's Commencement on May 13.
Marketing and Communications
For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director, Media Relations
May 08, 2017
Founder and Medical Director of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net®
Pittsburgh, Pa. – Dr. James S. Withers, MD, FACP, the founder and medical director of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net®, will be awarded an honorary doctorate from Carlow University during the university’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland.
“Jim Withers, MD, is a true embodiment of Carlow University’s mission and vision of exemplary leaders who dedicate their time and talent to transforming lives and transforming our world,” said Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, president of Carlow University. “Dr. Withers brings to life the university’s core values of Service, Sacredness of Creation, and Mercy in every aspect of his work as he provides accessible medical treatment to Pittsburgh’s most underserved and marginalized population.”
In 1992, Dr. Withers founded Operation Safety Net, the first full-time, comprehensive medical outreach service of its kind for people who are unsheltered and experiencing homelessness. As part of Pittsburgh Mercy and Trinity Health, serving in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy, Operation Safety Net delivers integrated health care, case management, housing follow up, and other vital health and human services to individuals living on the streets of Pittsburgh. To date, Operation Safety Net has reached approximately 10,000 individuals with more than 68,000 visits and helped more than 1,400 individuals who were once homeless to find homes of their own.
Dr. Withers, a graduate of Haverford College who earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and Operation Safety Net have been the recipient of numerous awards. (For more information, please see Dr. Withers’ biography at the end of this release. A photo of Dr. Withers is available upon request.)
More than 600 students are eligible to receive bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees at the commencement ceremony on May 13. The procession of graduates begins at 12:45 p.m. Carolyn Y. Woo, PhD, the former executive director of Catholic Relief Services, will give the commencement address. Dr. Woo will also receive an honorary doctorate.
In keeping with Carlow tradition, a Baccalaureate Mass will take place at 10 a.m. in St. Paul Cathedral, located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Craig Street in Oakland.
James S. Withers, MD, FACP
Founder and Medical Director
Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net®
James S. Withers, MD, FACP is founder and medical director of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net®, the award-winning, innovative medical and social service outreach program to people who are experiencing chronic homelessness.
Dr. Withers was raised in rural Pennsylvania, where he made house calls with his late father, Dr. Donald Withers, a family physician and delivered meals alongside his mother, June, a retired registered nurse.
Dr. Withers earned his undergraduate degree at Haverford College and his medical degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1984. His interest in service-oriented medicine grew through medical missions to Central America and India.
After completing his medicine and chief residencies at The Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh, he joined the hospital’s full-time teaching faculty in the Department of Internal Medicine. His areas of special interest include integrated health care for people experiencing homelessness, international street medicine, domestic violence, and wilderness medicine.
In 1992, Dr. Withers founded Operation Safety Net®, the first full-time, comprehensive medical outreach service of its kind for people who are unsheltered and experiencing homeless. As part of Pittsburgh Mercy and Trinity Health, serving in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy, Operation Safety Net delivers integrated health care, case management, housing follow up, and other vital health and human services to individuals living on the streets of Pittsburgh. To date, Operation Safety Net has reached approximately 10,000 individuals with more than 68,000 visits and helped more than 1,400 individuals who were once homeless to find homes of their own.
Dr. Withers and Operation Safety Net have been recognized internationally with numerous awards and honors for their work. Dr. Withers was named one of the 2015 Top 10 CNN Heroes. As an innovative model of care, Operation Safety Net is being replicated or studied in cities throughout the world.
In 2005, Dr. Withers and Operation Safety Net established the International Street Medicine Symposium to foster international collaboration and share best practices in the care of people experiencing homelessness. In 2008, Dr. Withers created the Street Medicine Institute to help other communities establish street medicine programs, improve existing practice, and create student learning opportunities in street medicine. They currently have partners in cities in North, South, and Central America; Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Dr. Withers enjoys numerous medical teaching appointments, volunteer activities, and board memberships. He is most proud of the many students who have gone on to careers in service-oriented medicine.
He resides in Shadyside and is the father of four adult children: Christopher, Jonathan, Gregory, and Jeneni.
For more information about Operation Safety Net or to make a donation in support of its work in our community, visit http://www.pittsburghmercy.org.
About Carlow University
Carlow is a private, co-educational, Catholic university located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Eds, Meds, and Tech” district. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Carlow’s graduates, curricula, and partnerships reflect its strong commitment to social justice; ethical, forward-thinking and responsible leadership; and service to the community that has a meaningful impact. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in three colleges: Health and Wellness, Leadership and Social Change, and Learning and Innovation. Carlow graduates are in demand for their professional expertise, in fields ranging from nursing, the sciences, and perfusion technology to counseling, education, and forensic accounting; their entrepreneurial spirit and creative mindset; and their ability to manage change. Carlow’s eleven athletic teams are known as the Celtics, a reflection of the university’s Irish heritage and roots.