Dr. James Mahoney died in the fight of his lifetime.
James, an intensive care doctor who worked nearly 40 years in Brooklyn hospitals, was known to the residents he mentored as “Our Jay-Z.” But when the coronavirus struck, the father of three put off retirement to serve on the front lines of the pandemic.
While treating countless patients with the virus at the height of its scourge in low-income areas of New York City, he contracted it himself. On April 27, he passed away from the disease, sources confirmed to The Post. He was 62.
“He was still working from home, telling patients to wash their hands, even as he was getting sicker every day,” Natasha Edwards, who works in the philanthropy department of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, tells The Post.
James split his time between University Hospital of Brooklyn — where he worked since the start of his career — and Kings County Hospital Center. He followed his older brother, Melvin Mahoney, into medicine. His father Oscar Mahoney, 89, tells The Post that his son was dedicated to helping his patients since day one.
“Any endeavor, he went all out for it,” Oscar says. “He put his all into it — he didn’t hold back,” adding that Oscar always told him “‘Don’t ever be a half-stepper. Put your whole heart into it.’”
The gregarious, down-to-earth doctor who resided in Freeport, NY, was a hospital fixture, perhaps best known for his mentorship to young physicians of color.
“As an African American medical student, meeting James during medical school was like meeting a celebrity,” Olu Akindutire, who worked with Mahoney as a resident from 2014-18, tells The Post.
Akindutire adds that while most attending physicians could be intimidating, James “was humble and spoke to you with respect,” says Akindutire, 30. “He really made you feel like your opinion mattered. He was a true superhero to young physicians of color.”
Those he mentored — and countless others inspired by his selfless work — have started a scholarship fund to help African-American students attend SUNY Downstate Medical School, where James graduated from in 1986. By Wednesday afternoon, the fund had already raised more than $42,000.
“He was an exemplary physician and a great advocate for young minority physicians,” reads the GoFundMe, started last week by James’ boss, Dr. Robert Foronjy. “He passed away saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Education was important to Dr. Mahoney and this fund is a fitting tribute to his legacy of teaching and mentorship here at our institution.”
Staffers at Kings County Hospital say the loss has been especially devastating given the death of their emergency room’s head nurse, Maria Guia Cabillon, who died the day before James, also of the virus.
James, who treated patients in the AIDS epidemic, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Sandy, told his family he wasn’t going to sit out the coronavirus pandemic, despite being near retirement. But, mid-April, after working closely with patients with the illness, he developed a fever.
He began working from home, consulting with patients virtually. But his symptoms worsened. He was admitted to the University Hospital on April 20. Though his family couldn’t spend his final days with him due to hospital restrictions, he was immediately surrounded by his medical family, Oscar says.
Later that week, James was rushed to Tisch Hospital in Manhattan. Five of his colleagues from Brooklyn followed him in the ambulance — and were with him when he passed away there.