A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital who treated many coronavirus patients after herself recovering from the virus died by suicide on Sunday, according to her father and police.
Dr. Lorna M. Breen ’92 M.S. ’21 was the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. She died in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was staying with family, her father told the New York Times. She was 49.
Breen’s father said his daughter had contracted COVID-19, but had returned to work after recuperating for about a week and a half. The hospital sent her home again, before her family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville.
“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” her father said. He also said Breen had no previous history of mental illness.
Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice chair for quality care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, told the New York Times that Breen was a well-respected and well-liked doctor in the network. The NewYork-Presbyterian system includes the Weill Cornell Medical Center and the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Breen received her undergraduate education in biology at Cornell. She had since returned to her alma mater for graduate education in healthcare leadership while working at NewYork-Presbyterian.
“Lorna was a talented student enrolled in the Executive MBA/MS in Healthcare Leadership program,” Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, said in a statement to the Cornell community. “She was respected by her classmates and colleagues and will be greatly missed.”
NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital has 200 beds — and, at times, 170 of them were filled with COVID-19 patients. As of April 7, there had been 59 patient deaths at the hospital, according to the New York Times.
Breen’s father said she had described devastating scenes of the toll COVID-19 took on patients.
“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” he said. “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”
Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with counselors from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.