Diabetes doctor's sudden death leaves void at McKeesport hospital
The UPMC McKeesport family lost a beloved member on Monday with the unexpected passing of Dr. Usman Ahmad.
“He was the most wonderful human being I have ever come into contact with,” his office manager Linda Palm said. “He never said a bad word about anybody and no one ever would say a bad word about him.”
Ahmad, 67, joined the hospital staff in 1977. He was chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine and co-founder of the hospital's Lions Diabetes Center.
Palm worked for him for nearly 20 years.
“What you saw was what you got with Dr. Ahmad,” she said. “He was never above anybody. He believed everyone was his colleague and he respected everyone.”
Palm and office secretary Mindy Chappell fielded calls from patients, assuring them they will be taken care of.
“(We are) tremendously saddened by his passing, on a professional and personal level,” hospital president Cynthia M. Dorundo said. “He was an exceptional clinician and he will be sorely missed by the entire hospital family. He never neglected to smile anytime he talked about his wife Ellen and his son and daughter.”
Carla DeJesus is a registered dietitian and diabetes specialist who worked with Ahmad for nine years at the diabetes center.
“We are still in shock and very sad,” DeJesus said. “When he talked to the group classes, he always told them that they are the quarterback, he is the coach and Jan (Koshinsky) and I are the cheerleaders, and that if they failed then we all failed. He was so compassionate and caring with his patients. We have lost our coach, our friend. I don't know what we are going to do.”
Koshinsky, the diabetes program's manager, was recruited by Ahmad.
“I hear his voice going through my head and the different things he used to say,” Koshinsky said. “It will be very different here without him.”
She said he prided himself on talking to patients in simple terms.
“He explained things to them about diabetes at their level,” she said. “In the last 10 years he made it public that he had diabetes and that he understood what they were going through.”
Dr. Richard Bondi, chairman of the Department of Surgery, knew Ahmad for nearly 40 years.
“He was a dear friend and a great guy and I will miss him very much,” Bondi said. “When my wife called and told me, I was shocked. My dad (Dr. Frank Bondi) had a tremendous amount of respect for him. As soon as he came to the hospital, my dad could tell he was a quality guy.”
Bondi said Ahmad was a “powerful influence.”
“He was very honest and outgoing,” Bondi said. “His knowledge was flawless about his specialty. It will be tough to replace him. It will definitely be different here without him.”
Chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs Dr. R. Curtis Waligura met Ahmad during his residency in 1978.
“He started as a mentor and teacher and then became a colleague and friend,” Waligura said. “My wife always described him as being a gentleman.”
Jim Spindler worked with Ahmad as president of the Mon River Fleet and community relations director at the hospital.
“What a tragedy,” Spindler said. “This is a true loss for our entire community and the UPMC McKeesport family is feeling a sense of loss at the passing of one of our most dedicated physicians. This is a loss that is profound. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”
McKeesport Hospital Foundation director Michele Matuch met him soon after he started at the hospital.
“It was a pleasure to work with a physician who came to McKeesport and dedicated his life to helping those with diabetes seek treatment and education, and support them,” Matuch said. “He was perfection in all he did and our hospital is at an extreme loss.
“We lost a dedicated physician who can never be replaced. There just isn't anyone like Dr. Ahmad.”
Lions board of directors vice chair Joseph Donkin was district governor of Allegheny County when the diabetes center was established. “When we started talking about the center, he was right there with us,” Donkin said. “He was so proud of the center and that it was recognized three times in the International Magazine. Dr. Ahmad was a wonderful man and nobody will be able to replace him.”
“(He) touched the hearts of everyone,” Lions' Allegheny County District Gov. Alice Jones said. “He will leave a void in a lot of people's lives and we will miss him. Everything he did was exemplary and he forged the way for other diabetes centers to promote education and resources.”
“His dedication to diabetes education and treatment helped a lot of people and extended their lives,” Jones' Westmoreland County counterpart Dave Stitely said. “He was a very good man and we will all miss him dearly.”
Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or firstname.lastname@example.org.