Photographs courtesy of David Killeen ('12)
Being the Change

A big heart in the Big Apple

Alumnus brings care, compassion to front lines in NYC hospital

In June 2019, Dr. David Killeen (’12) was heading to New York City to start his first year of residency at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Eight months later, COVID-19 hit and Killeen was thrown onto the front lines of treating patients in the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.

“It was really quick,” Killeen said. “Within just a few weeks, we went from having no patients with coronavirus to, at one point, all but one of the 24 patients we had on our service had coronavirus.”

What began in the first week of March quickly escalated throughout the city as hospitals and staff prepared for the worst. Less than three weeks later, the number of patients testing positive for coronavirus skyrocketed, and cities across the U.S. went into lockdown.

“The only thing that was getting me up in the morning and helping me through these really long days was the fact that this was something I’m really passionate about—giving people the care they need.”
Dr. David Killeen (’12)

Killeen’s recollections from that time center around community, personalized care and devotion to service—personal values he said were nurtured during his time at JMU. A double major in biology and Spanish, he later picked up a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and was admitted into the Honors Program, which is now a college.

Biology professor Sharon Babcock, Killeen’s pre-med adviser, saw his intersection of passions as a unique opportunity that would prove beneficial in his career. “It wasn’t just medicine for him; it was communities, cultures and medicine,” Babcock said. “He’s just a wonderful example of what it means to be a JMU student.”

Killeen said JMU’s culture and the personalized support from professors, mentors, fellow students and alumni helped forge his professional path.

(Left) Dr. David Killeen (’12) is a front-line medical resident in New York City. (Right) Killeen with a fellow resident at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

“One thing that has been important in this whole crisis, especially in the hospital, is that there are little things you can do during the day that can make someone else’s day a little bit nicer,” Killeen said.

Jessica Killeen ('07) knows how much her brother truly cares about his patients because she’s seen his devotion to helping others from an early age.

“One thing about David is that he’s always been very caring, and I think that shines through with his medicine,” she said. “I’m not surprised he’s chosen a field where his job is to take care of others. That’s where he exceeds.”

Killeen's medical clinic is returning to regular appointments. But his devotion to service remains the same—something his sister believes will “change the world.”

To read more, click here .

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