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Howard J. Finger, DO

Howard J. Finger, DO

Attending Physician
NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler

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Coler’s Longest Serving Physician Remains an Innovator

Having joined NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler in 1985, Dr. Howard Finger is now the hospital’s longest-serving physician — and one of its most-innovative. 

Last year, he was the lead author in a study published in The Journal of Clinical Ethics about an algorithm he developed in conjunction with the Bioethics Council to help care teams of unbefriended cases to make end-of-life decisions when the patients lack both decision-making capacity and next of kin or other surrogates. 

For someone who joined Coler roughly when Mark Zuckerberg was born, Dr. Finger has leaned into the 21st century. 

The algorithm basically synthesizes the opinions of the care team — attending physicians and nurses, the social worker, the nutritionist, psychiatrist and palliative care consultant. “The team is as close to many of these residents as anybody,” says Dr. Finger. “They’ve been there for them for the long haul. They have a sense of who they are and are able to comfort them.”

It’s non-proprietary, as open to anybody as other clinical interventions like the Heimlich maneuver or Lamaze breathing. It’s also urgent. Approximately 20 percent of Coler’s patients are unbefriended (as opposed to a national average of less than 5 percent, Dr. Finger explained). Whether as a direct result of his work or not, Coler had no COVID-related deaths from June 2020 to December 2021 — a remarkable feat for a vulnerable population who are also about 73 percent non-White, Dr. Finger noted. 

“In a sense, I look at myself as a late bloomer. With all my past experience, it’s actually the last few years when I was able to accomplish the most,” he says. “I hope that serves as an inspiration to others the way it has inspired me: it’s never too late!”

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