Colleagues Mourn Italian 'Hero' Physician Killed by COVID-19

Marcia Frellick

March 13, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's  Coronavirus Resource Center.

Colleagues and others are mourning the coronavirus-related death earlier this week of Italian physician Roberto Stella, 67, leader of the medical association in Italy's northern Varese region, who continued to treat patients even after protective gear ran out.

Stella, president of the Medical Guild of Varese, died of respiratory failure after contracting SARS-CoV-2 Tuesday in a Como hospital, according to news reports.

A colleague of Stella's at a health service training academy in the region, Alessandro Colombo, was quoted by the Italian news service ANSA as saying that Stella told him a few days ago, "We have run out of masks. But we don't stop. We are careful and we go on."

Colombo continued, "Such a man belongs to everyone, because he gave himself to everyone. He was more than a hero; he was a man who knew how to cry. Who was moved in the face of beauty and truth. He wanted to change. Change yourself and help people do it. A master."

ABC News reported that Stella was a general practitioner in Busto Arsizio, a city about 20 miles from Milan.

According to the BBC, as of Thursday Italy has recorded at least 1016 coronavirus deaths, amid 15,113 infections. Currently on a nationwide lockdown, Italy is second-hardest-hit by COVID-19 after China.

Lack of Protective Gear

Silvestro Scotti, head of Italy's National Federation of Doctors and General Practitioners, told CNN, "He was the example of the capability and hard work of family doctors. His death represents the outcry of all colleagues who still today are not equipped with the proper individual protection needed."

Physician and colleague Simon Gregory tweeted, "I am so sorry. Roberto was a dear friend and colleague and I am privileged to have known him. As Alessandro Colombo's (comment) shows, he carried on serving patients when PPE (personal protective equipment) ran out. Such courage and compassion."

Jane Townson, CEO of the UK Homecare Association, tweeted, "Our deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr Roberto Stella and to all in Italy struggling with illness and loss. We are indebted to those who work tirelessly in the health and care systems across all nations to support us all."

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