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Sanctae Crucis Award Recipients 2009

Leo M. Cooney Jr., M.D. ’65

With skill and compassion, Dr. Leo Cooney has led his life as clinician, healer and mentor shaped by Ignatius Loyola’s call for the “Magis.”

For Leo, the call to strive for more, for excellence, for what is greater than previously imagined came in the early 1970s when he was a young intern at Boston City Hospital.  He saw the standard of care older people received and realized that there was much, much more to be done.  While he heard many lectures on “exotic” diseases in hospital corridors, he did not hear anyone talking about his patients’ bedsores or dementia, their delirium or osteoporosis. 

That realization shaped his professional life -- a life that has been singularly devoted to ensuring that the complex problems faced by the frail elderly are assessed and managed in a comprehensive way.  With clear purpose and a commitment to bringing the very best people together to do the very best work, Leo has created and built the geriatric program at Yale’s School of Medicine into international renown.

A Providence, Rhode Island, native, this bred-in-the bone Red Sox fan followed in his father’s footsteps to Mount St. James, and after graduation, attended Yale Medical School.  The influential internship at Boston City and a fellowship in rheumatology at Boston University Medical Center followed, and he also served a two-year tenure as director of the outpatient clinic at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Leo returned to New Haven and began his pioneering work.   His first job was convincing skeptical medical residents that a clinical rotation involving geriatrics would be worthwhile.  There was grumbling.  Some chief residents even pushed to combine the rotation with what may have been seen as the more exotic coronary care unit.  But Leo prevailed, won them over, and three years later, received the house staff’s teacher-of-the-year award -- the first of many accolades from his students.

In addition to helping the elderly sustain their highest levels of physical and cognitive functioning and safeguarding their independence and autonomy, Leo’s career has been marked by efforts to apply health care resources to those in most need.  He developed the Resource Utilization Group, now used to reimburse Medicare patients in nursing homes throughout the country. He directs the utilization review efforts at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and is a past President of the American Geriatrics Society. Widely published, Leo’s scholarly work covers a broad range of issues in geriatric medicine, from health economics to the prevention of delirium.  The National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization, among others, call upon him to address issues in geriatric medicine.   Leo’s active clinical and teaching roles – he is president of the medical staff at Yale New Haven Hospital and one of the few fully tenured professors at the medical school -- mean that his residents and students, and, in turn their students, will continue on the pathways blazed by Leo Cooney.

For his commitment to patients and students, for setting new standards of excellence, for using his gifts of leadership and skill to bring the finest care and support to our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers —the College of the Holy Cross presents to Dr. Leo M. Cooney, Jr., Class of 1965, the Sanctae Crucis Award.