J. Corey Feist
Crusader for providers’ mental health

The April 2020 suicide of Lorna Breen, M.D., director of the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, emerged as one of the most shocking news stories of the early pandemic. As the world grappled with the impact of COVID-19 and how best to treat it, Breen’s death sent an ominous warning: The virus was pushing America’s healthcare providers beyond their breaking point.

The loss seemed unfathomable for J. Corey Feist, who is married to Breen’s sister, Jennifer. Weeks before, the couple had skied with Breen on a family vacation. But as COVID-19 unfolded, they’d watched her put in punishing 18-hour days as sick and dying patients poured in. She contracted COVID-19 herself, returning to the ER as soon as possible. One day, Breen couldn’t work any longer, paralyzed by a crushing depression. The Feists managed to get her into a hospital. There, she agonized, fully aware that by seeking psychiatric help, she risked losing her career.

That stigma compelled the Feists to start the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, devoted to protecting HCPs from the risk of suicide, burnout and mental and behavioral health conditions. Since then, Feist, a healthcare executive with over 20 years of experience, has authored numerous publications on the crises. He has served as an expert in multiple forums and provided formal Congressional testimony.

Feist played a crucial role in the passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022. This legislation provides mental health and resiliency training, and seeks to end the stigma that prevents many healthcare providers from seeking the help they need.

“The culture in medicine was one of the contributors to Lorna’s death,” Feist said. “We know Lorna cared as deeply about her colleagues as she did her patients. So for me to bring my professional background together with this personal tragedy and continue to shine her light for others is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.”


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