Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the emergency department director at a Manhattan hospital, died by suicide on Sunday in Virginia, according to her father. She was 49. Breen treated patients who had the COVID-19 coronavirus and survived the virus herself, her father said.
In an interview with the New York Times, Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said, “She tried to do her job, and it killed her.”
Lorna Breen was the medical director of the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. At the time of her death, she was staying with family in Virginia.
In an email, Tyler Hawn, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, said that Breen was taken to UVA Hospital for treatment but later “succumbed to self-inflicted injuries.”
Breen’s Father Says She Had No History of Mental Illness
Speaking about his daughter to the New York Times, the elder Breen said, “She was truly in the trenches of the front line.”
Breen fought coronavirus herself, but after recuperating, she went back to work. Then, about a week and a half later, the hospital sent her home, and her “family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville,” in the words of the New York Times. Her father says she had no history of mental illness. He did say, however, that when he last spoke to her, she seemed “detached, and he could tell something was wrong.”
NewYork-Presbyterian Allen, the hospital where Breen worked, is a 200-bed hospital in northern Manhattan that has housed up to 170 patients with COVID-19 at times. It had experienced 59 deaths as of April 7.
Breen Attended Cornell University for Undergraduate & Graduate School
According to LinkedIn, Breen attended Cornell University for both undergraduate and graduate school. She completed her residency program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where she double boarded in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine. Breen was chosen as chief resident of her class during her senior year. In 2021, she was expected to earn her Master of Business Administration in healthcare leadership.
Breen worked at Long Island Jewish Medical Center for five years before moving to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where she worked for the past 13 years. During her time with the Allen Emergency Department, the hospital’s patient satisfaction scores increased, total annual ED visits increased and rates of walkouts before evaluation decreased.
Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice-chair for quality care at the hospital where Breen worked, told the New York Times that Breen was a “well-respected and well-liked doctor.”
Dr. Dara Kass, a physician who worked with Breen, added that while she was at home recovering from COVID-19, she constantly checked in with friends and colleagues to see how they were doing. “She was always the physician who was looking out for other people’s health and well-being,” Kass said.
The elder Breen says, “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”