His patients always came first.
Dr. Arthur Friedman was a pioneer in urgent care medicine, realizing that not everyone who needed to see a doctor could do so during banker’s hours. In 1990, he opened up one of the first walk-in facilities on Long Island in Commack, keeping his doors open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
After nearly three decades practicing on Commack Road, Friedman was starting to think about slowing down. Or so his family thought. He loved the beach, had a house in Florida and a nice retirement on the horizon. But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“He kept telling us he was going to be safe and not to worry,” said his eldest son, Eric Friedman, 32, of Parkland, Florida. “Even though we had every confidence in him, it put knots in our stomach. He said, ‘I would never abandon my patients.' ”
Added his daughter Nicole Friedman, 26, also of Parkland: “It was never an option not to work. He went in there full force.”
Arthur Friedman died from complications from COVID-19 on April 30 at Stony Brook University Hospital, on the same campus where he had been a pre-med student more than four decades earlier. He was 62.
Friedman, who lived in Smithtown, had been caring for patients through April 10, when he began to feel sick and then tested positive for the disease. His son and daughter both said they knew it was serious when he told them he was quarantining at home.
“My dad is someone who would go to work with his arm hanging off if he could,” Eric Friedman said.
After being admitted to Stony Brook on April 21, Arthur Friedman died nine days later.
Friedman was buried on May 7 in a plot at Beth Moses Cemetery next to his youngest son, Greg, who died in 2014. The service was limited to 10 people because of the virus, but the family streamed it on Facebook Live. There were more than 3,200 views of the funeral, and many of his longtime patients left heartfelt comments about what his care had meant to them.
“Arthur is survived by his family, his friends and literally by hundreds and hundreds of patients that survived because he saved them,” said Rabbi Todd Chizner, who officiated at the graveside service.
Friedman was born Sept. 6, 1957, in Brooklyn. He grew up in a two-family home in Bayside, Queens. His two older cousins who lived in the same house went to medical school, and Friedman decided at a young age that he also wanted to be a doctor.
After graduating from Bayside High School at 16, he enrolled in the pre-med program at Stony Brook University. The competition was so stiff to get into medical school that he was not admitted to a program in the United States. He was offered a spot at Universidad del Noreste in Tampico, Mexico. The only drawback: The classes were taught in Spanish.
“He had taken French all the way through school and didn’t know Spanish,” Eric Friedman said, "but it didn’t faze him. He just taught himself Spanish and went.”
After medical school, he worked as a doctor in Israel on a kibbutz and was the head resident at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan. He then moved to Long Island and opened up Healthline of Commack.
His family estimates that over the years he treated more than 30,000 patients. He also became a beloved member of the Commack community. On May 9, the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corp. organized a memorial tribute to Friedman, driving their emergency vehicles with sirens blaring up Commack Road and stopping at Healthline of Commack to salute Friedman and other front-line medical professionals who have risked their lives.
“He really helped so many people and touched so many lives,” Nicole said. “So many patients have reached out and thanked us. It’s really been incredible.”
In addition to his children, Friedman is survived by his father, William Friedman, of Bayside, and two sisters, Beth Cohen, of North Hills, and Wendy Mizrahi, of Port Washington.