Recognizing a “living legend” – the retirement of Dr. James “Jim” Mahoney

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Recognizing a “living legend” – the retirement of Dr. James “Jim” Mahoney

Toronto, December 23, 2019

By Jennifer Stranges

Dr. James Mahoney
Dr. James Mahoney

Over the course of his nearly 40 year career, Dr. James Mahoney’s expertise as a clinician, educator, researcher and leader has been instrumental in the evolution of wound care and reconstructive surgery in Canada and in the lives of countless patients and physicians.

At the end of this year, Dr. Mahoney, chief of Plastic Surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital, will take on his newest role: retiree.

Although his story began at St. Michael’s during his residency in the late 1970s, Dr. Mahoney’s connection to the hospital started long before then. He is a third-generation physician, all of whom have practiced at one point in their career at St. Michael’s.

His grandfather, a family doctor from Niagara Falls, interned at St. Michael’s in the 1920s, and his father, general surgeon Dr. Leo Mahoney, was the founder, director emeritus and senior consultant of the St. Michael's Hospital Breast Centre.

His father pioneered the concept of one-stop, full-service breast care – screening, surveillance, through to cancer treatment and reconstructive surgery, all through a single facility. The significance of his contributions to breast care cannot be overstated – his model for multidisciplinary breast health clinics has been adopted globally. A tribute to “Leo’s” remarkable contributions welcomes patients at St. Michael’s CIBC Breast Centre.

Each day, Dr. Mahoney cares for patients in the very centre his father helped build. He followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a staff physician at St. Michael’s in 1981, specializing in breast reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Karen Cross, a plastic surgeon at St. Michael’s, said that Dr. Mahoney’s legacy as an innovator matches that of his father’s. His work in negative pressure wound therapy became a widely practiced wound management strategy, he worked with microsurgery in its infancy in the ‘80s when he returned to Toronto after a prestigious fellowship at The Eastern Virginia School of Medicine, and he pioneered multidisciplinary wound clinics – the first of their kind in Canada – helping patients heal faster.

“Jim is an icon in plastic surgery. The Mahoney family is iconic, especially here at St. Michael’s,” said Dr. Cross. “It’s important to recognize your living legends.”

Dr. Mahoney’s legacy is far-reaching, said Dr. Cross. “Surgeons across Canada seeking solutions to problems often ask, ‘What would Jim do?’”

The opportunities to collaborate and innovate are among what Dr. Mahoney will miss most during his retirement, “I’ll miss the people I work with, the stimulation of the problems that we’re trusted to take care of, the interactions with the students, and the research – the ability to take a new idea and move it forward to help patients.”

In the face of his many accomplishments as an internationally recognized leader in reconstructive surgery and wound management, Dr. Mahoney’s eyes light up most when he talks of his biggest point of pride – his family. He’s quick to boast of his wife, four children and seven grandchildren. His daughter carries on the Mahoney family legacy as the fourth in a generation of physicians, also practicing plastic surgery in Toronto.

Travelling with his family and having time to spend with friends are what excites Dr. Mahoney most about his retirement, “I keep joking about how amazing it will be when a friend calls up and asks, ‘Do you want to do something?’ and I can actually say yes!”

An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Mahoney enjoys fishing, winter sports, and his latest hobby – golf-croquet. “It involves a fair amount of strategy and technique,” he said.

His description of golf-croquet may be accurate of the sport, but it’s also accurate to surgical success – proof that you can take the surgeon out of practice, but even in retirement, you can’t take the practice out of the surgeon.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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