Skip to Main Content


Schwartz Finds “Heart of Gold”

June 08, 2020
by Julie Parry

At Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH), visitor restrictions were put in place in mid-March to protect patients, families, employees, and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these restrictions were in the best interest of the patients, some patients felt lonely without having their loved ones near them while they battled their illness.

The challenges posed by COVID-19 led to some creativity amongst the medical and nursing staffs in caring for the whole patient.

Jeremy I. Schwartz, MD, assistant professor of medicine (general medicine) and epidemiology (chronic diseases) took over the care for a patient in his 70s who was COVID+ and who “posed some challenges to the staff in caring for him.”

“In addition to chronic lung disease and other conditions that had made him particularly susceptible to COVID, his prolonged illness and isolation in the hospital were causing him to act out,” explained Schwartz. “He was abrasive to the staff. I had to talk to him a few times and let him know that he couldn’t act like that to the people who were trying to care for him.”

The next morning, the patient was still ornery, so Schwartz asked him what would make him happiest right now.

“My guitar,” said the patient. He launched into a story about his six-string and 12-string guitars, and how he used to perform.

“His face lit up,” said Schwartz. “I told him to give me a while and see what I could figure out.”

Schwartz and his resident, Jihoon Kim, MD, MSc, finished rounding on the other patients, and when he could, he contacted the patient’s long-term care facility in Hamden. Kim, a psychiatry resident, volunteered to serve in Medicine while on his vacation. Schwartz explained the situation and was pleasantly surprised when the facility staff said he could pick up the guitar. Schwartz drove to nearby Hamden where he obtained the six-string guitar.

Schwartz returned back to the YNHH’s Saint Raphael Campus, put his personal protective equipment back, and delivered the guitar. The patient was thankful and started tuning and playing it right away.

“The rest of the day, you could hear him playing in his room,” recalled Schwartz. “His entire persona changed instantly and dramatically. In addition to the patient, the staff were also very appreciative. The next morning, I asked him if he would give us a little concert, and he played Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold.’ He had a great voice.”

The next morning, Schwartz asked him if he would like to perform for a larger group of doctors. He was really excited and proud to have the opportunity. “I sent a message to the residents and faculty of the Yale Primary Care program and he performed live via Zoom – sort of a pop-up concert right from his hospital room. That was my final day caring for him.” He was discharged the following week, one of 3000+ patients discharged with COVID-19 throughout Yale New Haven Health since the start of the pandemic.

“This story emulates what we believe here at Yale,” said Patrick G. O’Connor, MD, MPH, Dan Adams and Amanda Adams Professor of General Medicine and chief of General Internal Medicine. “Jeremy recognized that this patient needed more than his medical expertise. He treated the whole patient, not just his disease, which made a huge difference for the patient and the other healthcare professionals involved in his care. He is a truly remarkable role model for a patient-centered physician who goes ‘above and beyond’ and whom we should all emulate!”

The Section of General Internal Medicine is committed to the core missions of patient care, research, education, and community health from the “generalist” perspective and is one of the 11 sections with the Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more about their mission and work, visit General Internal Medicine.

Submitted by Julie Parry on June 08, 2020