Selfless Doctor Who Practices “Street Medicine” Named Top Hero of 2015

You won't find Dr. Jim Withers stuck in an exam room. He takes his medical practice to the streets.

Dr. Jim Withers CNN Hero 2015

For more than two decades, Jim Withers has put his skills as a doctor to good use, treating the homeless people in his city. From giving the homeless free quality medicine to giving them quality care, Dr. Withers and his team have done it all.

Withers is the founder and medical director of Operation Safety Net, which provides health care services to Pittsburgh's homeless population.

Withers and his team do their nightly rounds in homeless camps throughout the city, taking food, water and medicine to those who need it the most. He even sometimes dressed like a homeless person to gain acceptance and search for the very people he wanted to provide care for.

The physician, who works in Pittsburgh's Mercy Health System, founded Operation Safety Net more than 20 years ago. He works alongside Pittsburgh’s Mercy Health System and Trinity Health, two Catholic hospital systems.

While he's helped countless vulnerable patients in that time, Withers' work is now gaining notice on a national stage. He's one of 10 finalists for CNN’s Hero of the Year for his work with the homeless.

“I have to admit that when I first heard about (the CNN honor), I kind of wanted to run the other way,” Withers said. “I thought, 'Oh my goodness! This is too much of a spotlight.' It didn't take me long to remember this is not about me, it's about the people who are out there, and the movement (to help the homeless), the people who are out there doing the work.”

Kelly Flynn, creator and senior executive producer of CNN Heroes, said, “I am heartened to know the world hasn't run out of heroes. We continue to be humbled by their work and honored to be telling their stories.”

CNN will announce the winner on Dec. 6 at its annual gala, and present the 2015 Hero of the Year with $100,000 to continue doing his or her good work.

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