Med Student Falls to Death

Third-year medical student dies after falling three floors from fire escape

David Magoon, a third-year student at Harvard Medical School (HMS), died early last Friday morning after falling three floors off his building’s fire escape ladder. He was 24.

Magoon had been on the roof of the three-story building with a few friends and was climbing down to his top-floor apartment to get a couple of sweaters when he fell, his father, Elbert Magoon, said.

An investigation into the death revealed that the building’s fire escape ladders had not been inspected in over five years, in violation of Massachusetts law, according to Elbert Magoon. He said that the building’s owner has received a fine for the violation.

Magoon’s family and friends remembered him this week as an energetic and loving man who was generous with his time and his talents.

Krisena M. Fell, one of his classmates at HMS, met Magoon through class and the two quickly built a strong friendship.

“Dave was extremely intelligent, but had a great balance between work and fun. He lived each day to its fullest, never doing anything that he didn’t think was worthwhile,” she said.

Amy Goodwin, another classmate of Magoon’s, remembered him as a reliable friend whom she turned to for advice.

“His charismatic personality drew people toward him and he had a way of making you feel good about yourself,” she said. “We used to have monthly talks from about 1 am to 5 am just about life, our feelings, what we really thought was important.”

Co-President of the HMS Student Council David K. Lee said, “Our class is very close so everyone is still grieving over what happened. It is really raw.”

Magoon had just begun his rotations at Beth Israel Medical Center as part of his clinical portion of medical school when he died.

His classmates and the faculty who knew him at HMS all strongly believed that Magoon had the qualities to make him, in Fell’s words, one of the “best doctors in the country.”

“He really had a passion for medicine and helping others, and was very eager to start [working at Beth Israel,] telling me, ‘This is what I came to medical school for,’” said Fell, as she recalled her last conversation with Magoon.

Orah S. Platt, a professor of pediatrics and master of the Castle Society, of which Magoon was a member, wrote in an e-mail, “He would have been one of those doctors everybody wanted—[he] wanted to figure out why they were sick and fix them, to be the one to break bad news, to celebrate good times, to advocate for them, to keep them healthy, and to hug.”

The Castle Society is one of four groups of 40 students who take many of their classes together.

Magoon was a Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia, graduating in 2003. He took a year off before enrolling at HMS, spending time in Valencia, Spain, according to Platt.

He was a good athlete and a great student, but most importantly, he was an empathetic person who did a lot for others, his father Elbert said.

“It is astonishing to me how many people there were with whom he was personal,” he said. “He really made the people around him better.”

In remembrance of Magoon, HMS lowered its flag to half-mast on July 11 and has planned a memorial service on July 21 at 4 p.m. More details about the service will be announced at a later date.

—Staff writer Aditi Banga can be reached at abanga@fas.harvard.edu.