Dr. James Taylor, M.D., who was a revered and respected figure in the healthcare field both in East Boston and nationally, has died.
Dr. Taylor, who dedicated over 40 years to the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in the role of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) before his retirement in 2011, died in Brookline on Sunday, August 12, after a brief battle with Parkinson’s Disease with dementia.
“Dr. Taylor served our community as CMO for more than four decades, retiring in 2011,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “He devoted his career to meeting the health needs of a complex community by caring for individual patients, planning public health interventions to reduce disease, and nurturing clinicians and staff. He was a prominent role model for responding creatively to the challenges of health care delivery and helping others maximize their potential by treating them with dignity. With his irrepressible perseverance, Dr. Taylor had tremendous impact on the health of East Boston and surrounding communities. Each one of us who had the good fortune of working alongside Dr. Taylor became better providers, better leaders, and even better people as a result. It is not possible to articulate his impact in our community. The space he leaves will never be filled.”
As a young doctor in the 1970s, Dr. Taylor’s work with the elderly on aging issues like hypertension, heart disease and diabetes brought him to East Boston. Dr. Taylor found that many of his patients had little or no access to quality healthcare due to the neighborhood’s geographic isolation from the rest of Boston. With only a medical relief station to care for the population, Dr. Taylor knew it was time for a full-fledged community health center in the neighborhood.
Former manager of East Boston’s Little City Hall during the Mayor White Administration, John Vitagliano remembers the era well and the support Dr. Tylor’s vision received four decades ago.
“I first became acquainted with Dr. Taylor during my tenure with the White administration,” said Vitagliano. “During that period Dr. Taylor had initiated a bold expansion plan for the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to provide greatly enhanced health services for the entire East Boston community.”
However, Dr. Taylor soon realized that the standard federal funding resources for medical facilities fell short by about 20 percent of the expansion project’s development costs. “Coincidentally Mayor Kevin White had just allocated a substantial amount of new Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to Boston’s neighborhoods,” said Vitagliano. “I suggested to Dr. Taylor that I could approve a portion of the East Boston CDBG allocation to the Health Center expansion project to serve as the project’s local share required by the standard federal funding sources. He agreed and Dr. Taylor’s Health Center expansion program was successfully completed to East Boston’s enormous benefit.”
Dr. Taylor has devoted his career to meeting the healthcare needs of the community by caring for individual patients, planning public health interventions to reduce disease, and nurturing clinicians and staff.
He soon became a role model for responding creatively to the challenges of healthcare delivery and helping others maximize their potential by treating them with dignity. With his trademark perseverance, Dr. Taylor had tremendous impact on the health of East Boston and surrounding communities.
As a physician and leader, Dr. Taylor set and inspired high expectations for professionalism among colleagues and created a supportive work environment. As a result, he attracted clinicians and staff who devoted their careers to EBNHC.
“Dr. Taylor was one of my first mentors in my professional life, and to this day one of the most significant”, said Vice President at EBNHC Steven Snyder. “Through his own actions Jim taught me how to treat all staff and community members with compassion, dignity and above all kindness. He was truly a great man and the world will be cheated by his absence.”
Rita Sorrento, chair of the EBNHC board of directors, said it was Dr. Taylor’s vision and presence back in the 1970s that made EBNHC what it is today. If not for his dedication and continued passion to improve access to healthcare for all, regardless of their ability to pay, the neighborhood would never have benefited from what has become a nationally recognized Health Center.
However, Sorrento said it was Dr. Taylor’s humble demeanor and kindness that always stood out.
“It was my honor and a privilege to be on the EBNHC board of directors with Dr. Taylor, the health center’s founding father, for so many years,” said Sorrento. “He was the kindest, most compassionate clinician and a good friend. Jim was a role model for all providers. His mission was to improve patient care.”
Sorrento said one year she walked in the Columbus Day Parade with Dr. Taylor, as well as the EBNHC staff and administrators and was amazed at the outpouring of love and affection from hundreds of patients and families along the parade route that he received.
“The East Boston community is grateful for all his innovations and the access to care provided thanks to our beloved Dr. Taylor,” she said. “He was responsible for leading us to the 21st century as one of the largest and best health centers in the country. On behalf of the entire EBNHC Board, past and present, ‘ Thank You, Dr. Taylor’ for all you did for East Boston and the surrounding communities. You left a lasting legacy.”
Former EBNHC President and CEO Jack Cradock, who had worked alongside Dr. Taylor since 1978 until the two retired, commented that health center wouldn’t be what it is today were it not for Dr. Taylor’s tireless, unwavering commitment.
While Rep. Adrian Madaro, a former EBNHC board member said, “I was fortunate to have known Dr. Taylor while serving on the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s Board of Directors. He was an outstanding leader, a committed physician, and a true friend to East Boston. His legacy and vision of community-based healthcare will live on through the exceptional professionals he mentored and the critical work done each day at the Health Center.”
Dr. Taylor was the devoted husband of Mary J. (Jordan) Taylor. Loving father of Kim Woodhouse and husband Erik of Oakland, Calif. and James J. Taylor and wife Janet of Revere. Adored grandfather (Papa) of Meghan and Samuel Woodhouse. Beloved son of the late Norman and Rosalind (Gregory) Taylor. Dear brother of N. Gregory Taylor of Northridge, Calif, John H. Taylor of Cerritos, Calif, and the late C. Richard Taylor of Concord. Also survived by a long list of loving nieces and nephews.
A Funeral Service will be held on Thursday, August 16 in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 15 St. Paul St., Brookline at 10:00 a.m. Relatives and friends are kindly invited. Visiting hours will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the Bell-O’Dea Funeral Home, 376 Washington St., Brookline from 4 – 7 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CATCH Program, c/o East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, 10 Gove St., East Boston, MA. 02128.