Last Wednesday at the Zumix Firehouse in East Boston the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center staff held a special memorial service for the late EBNHC Founder and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. James Taylor, who passed away on Sunday, August 12 after a brief battle with Parkinson’s Disease with dementia.
Dr. Taylor was a revered and respected figure in the healthcare field both here in East Boston and nationally and dedicated over 40 years to the EBNHC as CMO before his retirement in 2011, 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 to 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.
At last Wednesday’s event those who knew him well and worked closely with him got a chance to honor the man that was a friend and a mentor.
“I worked with Jim, lived with Jim played with Jim,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “I learned a lot from Jim. There are many many stories of Jim and what he did. I’m hoping today is truly a celebration of Jim, his work, his life, his friendship and how we all benefited as a community and a Health Center. There a lot to celebrate and a lot to continue to celebrate due to Jim’s leadership making us one of the best Health Centers in the country. We all know that he was this giant that impacted a lot of lives.”
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.
“He devoted his career to addressing the needs of a complex community by caring for people and nurturing clinicians and staff,” said EBNHC Board Chair Rita Sorrento. “The East Boston community is grateful for all his innovations and wisdom that brought greater access of care to all our patients. He truly was the champion of health care. Dr. Taylor was responsible for leading us to become one of the largest and best health centers in the country. On behalf of the entire EBNHC family we want to thank you for the impact you had on 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 commitment.
“For the record its okay to be sad because I tell you I’m sad,” said Cradock. “It’s good to laugh and remember Jim but his death was a big deal in all of our lives. I never met anyone like Jim. To try and articulate what it has been like to work with someone like Jim and next to Jim for over 35 years because it was just the most incredible experience because he was the most incredible person I’ve ever met. The thing that struck me the most about Jim was that I have never known anyone as smart as he was. But he never wanted to be the smart guy or the professor he just wanted to be a friend. We use to have a saying ‘laugh at thyself first’ and that’s how he lived. He never took himself too seriously but he was a giant.”
Dr. Taylor’s wife, Mary, ended the service with some reflections on her late husband.
“Every time he spoke of the health center he spoke about it as his family,” said Mary Taylor. “He thought that together was the only way to go forward. He wanted people to feel involved and a part of something and that’s what his leadership was all about–he got people to follow him because they were all in it together. People that worked with him and for him were proud to be there and that made him immensely proud. Everything people said about him was true. He was kind, he was generous he was humble and those are the thing I loved about him. He died the way he lived, caring for everyone around him. He had a hard death. The disease was not kind to him and one of the last things he said was, “Just because I’m suffering doesn’t mean the people around me have to suffer” and that to me that was a mark of a great man.”