Orlanda Mackie, MD

Cook County Health

Chicago, IL

One colleague described Orlanda Mackie, MD, as embodying the true spirit of the medical profession. “Each and every patient receives her all, regardless of their background or ability to pay, as she advocates for them in her quiet, humble and dedicated way,” they said.

Dr. Mackie is a hospice and palliative provider at Cook County Health, a safety net hospital where patients often already have advanced, terminal illnesses by the time they are having their very first encounters with the healthcare system. Many of these patients are uninsured. In these situations, Dr. Mackie will take whatever time is needed to help them and their families understand and process such devastating news and navigate an unfamiliar landscape. “She listens, she responds, and she returns, again and again, as needed,” said a colleague.

In one such case, a dying patient asked her if she would write a letter to his sister whom he had not seen in more than 20 years. Dr. Mackie was able to help his sister, who lived in Mexico, travel to Chicago to visit her brother. Despite being very ill, he was able to greet his sister and hold her hand, with a smile on his face. She was with him as he passed away.

Dr. Mackie has worked tirelessly to ensure that any patient who wants to can return to their country or state of birth at the end of their life. Many of these patients do not have the means to pay for their transport, so Dr. Mackie works with consulates, embassies, and charity organizations to help these vulnerable patients fulfill their wish of going home. On several occasions, she has escorted them to the airport to ensure everything goes smoothly. “The final journey for these patients and their families is extremely rewarding and is an integral part [of] their final plan of care,” said Dr. Mackie.

Known for her calm presence, Dr. Mackie is often called on to handle difficult situations in the hospital. She has advocated for terminally ill detainees from Cook County Jail to be treated with respect and dignity. She has worked with the jail’s medical leadership to facilitate compassionate release, or if this is not possible, to ensure patients are not shackled while dying.

Despite the added pressure of the pandemic, Dr. Mackie remains a tireless champion for all her patients. She takes the time to listen to them and their families. She often returns after hours to talk to patients and get to know them personally. Dr. Mackie ensures patients have the chance to express what is important to them about their care. She consistently shows respect to the poor, the disadvantaged and underserved patients who often don’t have their voices heard in medical decisions.

As one colleague summarized, “She has been a fearless leader who is a dedicated, hardworking physician providing excellent and compassionate care to all patients during this unprecedented time.”

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