New York physician on front lines of COVID-19 dies by suicide

A top emergency room physician who treated countless COVID-19 patients during New York City's peak died by suicide April 26, according to The New York Times.

Lorna Breen, MD, was the chair of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. Dr. Breen, 49, had contracted COVID-19 but returned to work after a week and a half. She died April 26 in Charlottesville, Va., where she had been staying with her family, her father said in an interview with NYT

Philip Breen, MD, said his daughter did not have a history of mental illness, but seemed detached the last time he spoke to her. The younger Dr. Breen had talked about the grim realities of COVID-19 in her hospital, including many patients who died before they could even be taken out of ambulances.

"She tried to do her job, and it killed her," her father told NYT.

NewYork-Presbyterian called Dr. Breen "a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department," in a statement to NYT.

"Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time," the system said.

William Jaquis, MD, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said Dr. Breen's death is "devastatingly personal for all emergency physicians" and offers a "tragic reminder" that many physicians may be silently suffering.

ACEP is offering free counseling sessions for members who experience depression, compassion fatigue or other mental health issues. To learn more, click here.

More articles on integration and physician issues:
25% of healthcare workers report poor access to protective gear, survey shows
8 medical schools allowing early graduation to boost COVID-19 workforce
Physicians push for COVID-19 protection act through grassroots lobbying

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