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'He taught me so much': Respected University Hospital professional dies after dealing with stress in COVID-19 fight

Retired Sgt. First Class Leo Paz​ was already a retired military doctor with an established...
Retired Sgt. First Class Leo Paz​ was already a retired military doctor with an established service record when he volunteered to go work the COVID-19 unit at University Hospital. (Source: The Paz Family)(WRDW)
Published: May. 12, 2020 at 5:56 PM EDT
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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A well-respected University Hospital technician volunteering to help in the fight of COVID-19 has passed away.

One scroll on social media and it's easy to see the impact Sgt. First Class Leo Paz made.

Paz​ was a retired military specialist and served as a heart and lung expert for over 20 years.

Paz had also been one of the people to help start the heart catheterization lab at University Hospital and was a resource specialist there for 25 years. He worked as a teacher and mentor for students at the lab.

"He taught me so much more then I could have imagined," said Mallory Gaston a former student Paz taught and mentored.

She wasn't surprised to see what the last task in his career was.

"Does it surprise you to see that he volunteered to work in the COVID-19 units?" asked Laura Pugliese, News 12 reporter.

"No, not at all," Gaston said. "I can see him now being one of the first people to volunteer, being one of the first people to sacrifice himself to do that job for the people who didn't want to do it."

Paz had an established service record when he volunteered to go work as a runner in the COVID-19 unit at University Hospital.

But the stress on top of his military service became all too much for Paz, his family says.

According to a poll with the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health -- with nearly 20% saying the stress is having a major impact.

His family says he was the kind of person that would give the best kind of advice. They say he was loved by many in the community and above all, he was "always a soldier."

Over at University Hospital, as doctors mourn the loss of patients -- they mourn the loss of their co-worker, too.

“Leo was a longtime employee, extremely hardworking, respected and well loved," a statement from University Hospital said. "He is greatly missed.”

And his family remembers his life for his service -- the thing he was most proud of, up until the end.

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