Westbury cardiologist to receive Black History Month award
“Black Excellence” is the theme of this year’s Black History Month Celebrations, hosted by the Town of North Hempstead on Thursday, Feb. 8. And excellence is something that Dr. Leon Mullen, one of the evening’s honorees, knows all about.
The Westbury resident has been a cardiologist for more than 37 years, with a practice in East Meadow and Mercy Medical Center affiliation.
“This year’s Black History celebration is focused on celebrating entrepreneurs in North Hempstead that are examples of Black Excellence in their respective fields. I chose Dr. Mullen because he has a very interesting story of his success as a physician,” said Councilwoman Viviana Russell, who nominated Mullen for the town award. “Dr. Mullen’s remarkable yet striking story is the reason why I chose to honor him.”
Mullen’s interest in medicine began in an unusual place: the kitchen. At 15, he got a job as a truck boy at Glen Cove Community Hospital, where he would deliver food from the kitchen to individual floors. African Americans were not allowed to enter into patients’ rooms, but Mullen found himself impressed with the doctors and nursing staff.
He soon got hands-on experience as an ROTC student studying science at Tuskagee University, where he did volunteer work at the VA hospital. After college, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the army, and assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. It was here that his love for medicine further deepened, as he underwent basic medical field service and battalion surgical assistance course.
“We were trained to function as doctors and medical supervisors in the combat zone. I was mostly impressed by the physicians, who were the instructors for us,” said Mullen, who was one of six African Americans in his class of 250.
After his time in the service, he obtained a masters at North Carolina Central University and Doctor of Medicine Degree at Upstate Medical Center. Mullen said his decision to specialize in cardiology was divinely inspired.
“My first year of med school, my uncle had a heart attack and died at the age of 41. I know he wanted to see me graduate,” he said. “That sealed the deal. I knew that’s what God wanted me to be.”
Upon graduation in 1976, he returned to Long Island, doing his internship, residency and fellowship at Nassau University Medical Center. In July 1981, Mullen opened his own practice in East Meadow, just a few minutes away from the Oxford Street home in Westbury he had moved into a year prior.
“It wasn’t a business to me, I was just doing
what God put me on the Earth to do.”
—Dr. Leon Mullen
And unlike some businesses, which undergo a few years of growing pains, Mullen’s practice opened with a bang. His early days were an “explosion” of about 35 patients a day—their names written by Mullen on an index card each day.
“When I opened, it was not gradual, it was an explosion of patients. But it wasn’t a business to me, I was just doing what God put me on the Earth to do,” said Mullen.
A self-described “people person,” Mullen has established himself in his practice by going above and beyond, not only giving his patients the best care, but helping them out in practical ways as well, such as giving those who need it a ride home. His work for his patients and in the medical community has garnered him numerous awards from fraternities and community organizations, but he said being recognized by the Town of North Hempstead has a special significance.
“This award was different. I’m older and nearing the end of my career, and I still have energy and I’m more honored than ever,” Mullen said. “I’m not only honored, but I’m excited about it.”
Mullen lives in Westbury with his wife Sandra. He has four children: Felicia, Monika, Keesha and Leon II, and three grandchildren: Bailey, Summer, and Noah. When he’s not caring for his patients, he enjoys writing poetry, traveling, dancing, biking and spending time with his family.
Mullen, along with other African Americans entrepreneurs, will be honored at the Town of North Hempstead’s Black History Month celebration at the “Yes We Can” Center on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m.