A Brooklyn-based doctor poured his heart into saving the lives of others, which eventually cost him his life in a stirring piece from The New York Times on Monday.
Dr. James A. Mahoney, a 62-year-old pulmonologist, died from the coronavirus on April 27, leaving heartbreak not just among his family, but also within his close-knit circle of colleagues and medical residents at University Hospital and King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
Prior to his death, Dr. Mahoney served his community for almost 40 years and was nearing retirement when he decided to continue practicing in order to take COVID-19 face on.
“As a young black man, I looked at this guy and said to myself, ‘Twenty years from now I want to be like him,’”said Latif A. Salam, a student of Mahoney’s who is now an internal medicine physician at University Hospital. “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.”
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City, Mahoney never once wavered at his commitment to practicing medicine, knowing very full well the responsibility he had to help his patients who suffered at higher morbidity rates and lived in some of Brooklyn’s most underserved neighborhoods.
“There were people who were really reluctant to go into the rooms, and you could understand why,” Dr. Foronjy, Mahoney’s supervisor, said. “He saw another human being in need, and he didn’t hesitate to help.”
They both refrained from thinking the worst when Mahoney texted Foronjy in early April, explaining that he had a fever.
“I was very concerned right from the beginning,” Dr. Foronjy said. “He and I knew how serious this was. We were just kind of hoping against hope.”
He was known as a supportive leader, unlike the hard, stoic physicians usually portrayed on TV. Dr. Mahoney regularly ate with his team at lunch, provided Christmas bonuses for his staff using his own money, and still managed to check in on patients even while he was bedridden.
Mahoney’s older brother, Dr. Melvin Mahoney said that the virus could not shake him to come out of his 2014 retirement because he was at high risk due to his age. But he knew that his younger brother would face COVID-19 with the same tenacity that he faced other events which directly impacted New Yorkers in large numbers, including the AIDS and crack epidemic, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Sandy.
“He worked on the front lines to the end,” Dr. Melvin Mahoney said.
As his health continued to deteriorate, he was transferred to Tisch Hospital, a hospital with more resources where he succumbed to the virus. Members of his staff were in the during his last moments so that he was not alone.
Dr. Mahoney leaves behind three children and his ex-wife, along with all of his colleagues who loved him so dearly.