"He’s our Jay-Z," one of Dr. James Mahoney's students said of the late doctor.

By Ashley Boucher
May 19, 2020
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Dr. James Mahoney
Legacy.com

A beloved New York doctor delayed his retirement to work on the front lines of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has tragically lost his life to the contagious respiratory virus.

Dr. James Mahoney, a physician at both University Hospital of Brooklyn and its neighboring Kings County Hospital Center, died on April 27, The New York Times reported Monday.

Mahoney, 62, was loved by his patients, who he would give his cell phone and pager numbers to, and didn't stop checking in on even after he became ill himself with COVID-19.

To many of the younger doctors at the hospitals where he worked, Mahoney was a heroic figure.

"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, one of Mahoney's previous students who now works at University Hospital, told the NYT. "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," Salam told the paper.

"He told that to a lot of his residents who were people of color: you’re just as smart as everyone else," Mahoney's sister, Saundra Chisolm told The Guardian. 

Mahoney's boss Dr. Robert F. Foronjy described him to The Washington Post as "a good coach on a baseball team and a football team."

"He knew how to press people’s buttons to get the best out of them," Foronjy added.

Chisolm said that her brother treated everyone equally, from cleaners to nurses to other physicians.

"He didn’t treat people like underlings," she told The Guardian. "He would talk to housekeeping like he would talk to the chief of the hospital."

Mahoney's family members thought he should retire when it became clear just how serious a threat COVID-19 would be, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Chisolm told The Guardian that a family cruise taken in January was meant to mark his upcoming retirement.

"He said, ‘that’s probably gonna be my retirement cruise,'" she said.

Plans for retirement were quickly put on hold for Mahoney, however, so that he could help as many COVID-19 patients as possible.

"There were people who were really reluctant to go into the rooms, and you could understand why," Foronjy told the NYT.

But not Mahoney.

"He saw another human being in need, and he didn’t hesitate to help," Foronjy said.

"He gave everything to that hospital. He gave his life for that hospital," Mahoney's older brother Melvin told the Washington Post, later adding, "There are two hospitals crying. Nonstop. I’ve heard men crying like you wouldn’t believe. That’s how much they loved my brother."

Melvin added to the NYT, "He worked on the front lines to the end."

Foronjy launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a scholarship fund in Mahoney's honor. The scholarship will "provide tuition support to enable a deserving and talented African American applicant to attend SUNY Downstate Medical School," where Mahoney graduated in 1986.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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