Meet BMC’s Newest Leader in Neighborhood Revitalization: Gina Patterson

Boston Medical Center sat down with Gina Patterson, director of BMC’s latest initiative The Boston Opportunity System (BOS) Collaborative. Patterson, a Boston native, is the perfect lead for the effort—she formerly worked for the Obama Foundation and brings a fresh perspective along with experience in public health. In her position at BOS Collaborative—a community-driven, systems-change approach to open pathways to employment and affordable housing for people in Boston’s disinvested neighborhoods— Patterson will ensure the agreements of the grant are met, while also working with community partners to execute plans and give a voice to communities in the process


Boston Medical Center: What brought you to Boston Medical Center?

Gina Patterson: I have always heard of and seen BMC’s work. I followed Dr. Thea James’ work with VIAP [BMC’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program that helps victims of violence in Boston communities] and my godmother Dona Rodrigues is a midwife and the director of Birth Sisters [BMC’s doula program that supports women during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period]—through these experiences and others during my time in Boston, I knew BMC was a place I wanted to be involved with. When the opportunity came across my desk, I jumped at the chance. I knew it was the right fit because I grew up here and I always wanted to come back and make a difference.

BMC: Tell us about the work you’re doing now at Boston Medical Center.

GP: BOS Collaborative is funded by JP Morgan Chase and we are part of a cohort of other cities across the world. [JP Morgan Chase] has committed a total of $500 million to innovations and BMC leads one of them—BOS Collaborative. We have several different partners at the table with us. Partners are cross-sector who bring a richness of expertise and knowledge to our focus areas of neighborhood revitalization and economic mobility. Much of the funding we received from JP Morgan has been reinvested into community-based organizations that are leaders in their fields. The Collaborative is about systems change, so thinking about some of the policies, procedures and gaps that are within the system of housing and workforce development, and determining how we shift that to create new opportunities and increase access.

BMC: Why are community partnerships such an important part of this work?

GP: BMC has always understood we cannot do this work alone and it should always be a cross-sector collaboration that has community-based organizations with decades-long expertise at its core. There are so many great non-profit organizations that have been doing this work for a long time and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Because partners are so important, we will continue to grow this collaboration and welcome new stakeholders to the table.

BMC: How has COVID impacted the work of BOS Collaborative?

GP: We submitted for the grant right before the pandemic, and, like everyone else, we had no idea what was about to happen. Many of the grant’s initial plans had to be pivoted since much of it relied on meetings and interactions with the community, as well as relying on certain employment sectors like hospitality and tourism which were hard-hit as a result of the pandemic. We had to reimagine and rethink what other opportunities there would be in Boston. Lucky for us, Boston is full of different industries—science, medicine and tech— that are pandemic-proof and our residents should be a part of them.

BMC: Why is BMC the perfect organization to be leading this effort?

GP: BMC has a track record and does great work in areas others wouldn’t consider health care. BMC recognizes health care is not a siloed thing. Health care is very much interconnected to stable housing, making sure people are healthy, able to work and have access to health insurance, medical care and education. BMC understands this and has led policies and procedures to provide families with opportunities to create thriving communities. As BMC evolves, it only makes sense we lead this effort.

BMC: How does philanthropy play an important role in this work?

GP: Philanthropy is incredibly important and will continue to be. This work is a commitment to our community and we don’t view it as short-term, one-off charity. We see it as an intentional investment in what a community needs and wants. We understand that at times well-intentioned systems, even philanthropy, haven’t done good to the communities they’re trying to help, and we do not want to be that. We are doing everything with purpose, thoughtfulness and follow-through, and the only way to achieve that is with continued investment from supporters as well as our community partners.