"I Believe BMC Is Rewriting the Script of How You Do Healthcare And Community."

One of BMC's strongest community partners, Rev. Willie Bodrick, speaks about wellness, equity, and the power of hospital-community collaborations.
Two Black men are smiling at one another. The man facing the camera is wearing a top hat and carrying a frozen turkey in a bag as he hands it to the other man.
(Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

As the senior pastor of the historic Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, Reverend Willie Bodrick, II, is passionate about wellness and equity within Boston’s neighborhoods. “A big part of community is making sure everyone has what they need to live life to the fullest,” he says.

For Rev. Bodrick, being a community leader means building partnerships with trusted organizations who are willing to listen to what the community needs and work together in service of those needs. “One of my favorite partnerships is with Boston Medical Center,” he says. “BMC has been really invested in ensuring we address social determinants of health and create wellness for those in this neighborhood and in our community.”

Read the story of how Rev. Bodrick and BMC are working together to bring more equitable care to the neighborhoods of Boston.

How did you come to partner with BMC?

A big pillar of our partnership started with COVID-19. In the midst of the pandemic, we needed to respond quickly, and it was important to have partnerships that would take into account the many factors of socioeconomic status, class, and education, while also caring about the people. As an historic black church in Roxbury, it was so important that we were partnering with those who were aligned with our ideals and our values, to serve the community in the midst of a difficult time.

Together with BMC, we created a vaccination clinic in Twelfth Baptist Church. We turned our fellowship hall and meeting halls into a vaccination clinic for months. And we made sure that folks in this community were taken care of.  A big part of that was dealing with misinformation and working to demystify the vaccine, but it also meant grappling honestly and transparently with the ways in which the healthcare system has had a very frayed relationship with Black and Brown communities. There were many congregants and community folks who told me they would not have trusted the vaccine if we had not been giving it at the church. And I thought that was a huge testament to our partnership with BMC. We had to do a lot of the work unpacking trauma before we could even get to healing. But because we and BMC were both committed to going through that work together, we were able to vaccinate over 2,500 people. We knew we could help turn hurt into healing and give people hope. I believe we saved some lives.

I lead with this notion of healing as a foundation for the work we do. And I think that's what aligns the Twelfth Baptist Church and BMC. — we are a match made in heaven, so to speak. We are committed to really thinking critically about what we need to do to address the issues of our community — whether it's disease prevention, access to resources, or overall health — and what we can do to help our congregations and communities be healthier.

How is BMC addressing health equity in the community?

I believe BMC is going beyond the framework of what traditional research hospitals are willing to do. And they're investing deeply into programs that address the social determinants of health and thinking critically about aligning with institutions and communities whose values are aligned with theirs.

One of my favorite partnerships with BMC was a long COVID conversation. We brought physicians into the sanctuary at Twelfth Baptist Church, and we streamed it out on Facebook, YouTube, and many other platforms. It’s so important to remember that equity starts with the access to information and making sure folks are empowered and see us as trusted voices. When we do that, I think we’ll see folks living their wellness.

I'm also excited that BMC is working in partnership with The American City Coalition (TACC), of which I’m president and CEO. TACC launched a workforce development initiative called Roxbury Works to work towards closing the wealth gap in the city. Roxbury Works is focused on creating opportunities and access for folks who are considered middle-skilled workers or hidden talent in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park. The goal is to give them on-ramps into jobs in life science, biotech, and healthcare, and BMC has been a major partner in that work.

It's so important that BMC continues to do this work. And I'm glad I can count on them as a partner as we try to build wraparound services for our community at-large. They are saying “We have a voice in workforce development, we have a voice in the housing crisis, we have a voice in what's happening with trauma and violence in our community. We want to be a part of the social cohesion in Black communities and Brown communities in the city of Boston.”

What is BMC to you?

BMC is my hospital. It’s where I get my healthcare. It’s where my family gets their healthcare and where my child was born. BMC is about community. BMC is about equity. BMC is about collaboration and partnership. BMC is about healing. BMC is invested in community.

How is BMC rewriting healthcare?

Rewriting healthcare means having an imagination to break beyond stoicism and the rigid frameworks of the past, knowing we must do something different to address new populations, new communities, and those who need us the most. BMC is rewriting healthcare by seeing itself as a partner and a server of community.


This Q+A is a part of an ongoing "Rewriting Healthcare" campaign that invites members of the Boston Medical Center community to elaborate on what "rewriting healthcare" means to them.