Dr. James Mahoney was a pulmonary specialist and ICU doctor at University Hospital in Brooklyn.
Mahoney was 62 and supposed to retire, but when the pandemic hit New York, he decided to keep working.
He died from COVID-19 after treating patients with the condition, which is caused by the coronavirus.
As a longtime doctor at an underfunded Brooklyn hospital that served the poor and black community, medical students, colleagues, and patients looked at Mahoney as a hero.
Dr. James Mahoney worked at the same Brooklyn hospital for nearly 40 years before he was admitted there with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He was transferred to a nearby hospital, where he later died.
Mahoney, a 62-year-old ICU doctor, was about to retire when the coronavirus pandemic overtook New York City, the Washington Post reported. That's when Mahoney decided he wouldn't retire, but would continue to serve the sickest COVID-19 patients.
In March, when coronavirus cases in New York sharply increased, Mahoney worked at his hospital University Hospital of Brooklyn - SUNY Downstate, but also took on extra shifts at Kings County Hospital Center across the street and telemedicine calls with existing patients, the New York Times reported.
Dr. Robert F. Foronjy, Mahoney's boss, said the doctor acted fearlessly during his time treating COVID-19 patients, rushing into rooms as monitors sounded off, alerting him a patient was crashing.
"There were people who were really reluctant to go into the rooms, and you could understand why," Foronjy told the Times. "He saw another human being in need, and he didn't hesitate to help."
On April 27, Mahoney died in Tisch Hospital in New York City after going to his own hospital's emergency room for COVID-19 symptoms. He was transferred to Tisch from University Hospital after doctors determined Tisch was better equipped to care for Mahoney's needs. Unfortunately, they weren't able to save him.
Mahoney spent his career serving minorities at his underfunded hospital
AP Photo/Molly Riley
Mahoney worked at University Hospital in Brooklyn since 1982. During that time, he was a medical student, then a pulmonary physician, then a professor for the school he once went to himself.
His lasting presence at the facility will be missed, by both his colleagues and black medical students who saw Mahoney as a role model.
"As a young black man, I looked at this guy and said to myself, 'Twenty years from now I want to be like him,'" Latif A. Salam, a doctor who works in internal medicine at University Hospital, told the Times. "When a black medical student, a black resident sees him, he sees a hero. Someone that you can be one day. He's our Jay-Z."
Compared to other New York hospitals, University Hospital is known to be severely underfunded, and a place that serves much of Brooklyn's poor and black community.
When the hospital had to use duct tape and plastic tarps to separate COVID-19 patients and rely on paper and pen to take vital signs rather than the computer systems other hospitals use, Mahoney's work ethic and generosity kept the staff going, his colleagues said.
"Not only did he heal people's bodies, he healed their minds and their souls," Michelle King, Mahoney's office assistant, told the Times.
Mahoney's last days were spent with his 'hospital family'
Mahoney went to University Hospital's emergency room on April 20 when he had trouble breathing, a fever, and could barely walk.
There, they admitted him and put him on oxygen to help his breathing. His colleagues visited him regularly during his last days there, which they said felt like a treat considering many COVID-19 patients die alone.
"I got to visit him, hold his hand," Foronjy said. "And he knew how much I loved him. And he knew how much everyone here loved him. We said a lot of things that week that needed to be said."
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