Morton Swartz, MD, a legendary physician at the MGH, died Sept. 9 at the age of 89. Swartz began his career at the hospital in 1947, founding and serving as chief of Infectious Diseases from 1956 to 1990 and creating an internationally recognized clinical and research center of excellence. He was widely regarded as the father of infectious disease medicine, not just at the MGH but across the country, thousands of individuals had the privilege of working with and learning from Swartz.
“He had a wonderful ability to help you think through a puzzle, guiding and probing you with subtle questions along the way until you actually thought that you had solved the puzzle, only to realize later that he had held your hand and gently steered you to the center of the maze,” says Stephen Calderwood, MD, chief of Infectious Diseases at the MGH.
During his career, Swartz received numerous awards and honors including the Bristol Award for Lifetime Achievement in Infectious Diseases from the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He was elected to mastership in the American College of Physicians and received the Distinguished Teacher Award. He also received the MGH Trustees Medal during the hospital’s bicentennial celebration.
Swartz stepped down as chief of Infectious Diseases in 1990 and became the James Jackson Firm chief in the Department of Medicine, allowing him to teach clinical medicine, pathophysiology and humanism to hundreds of medical residents and students at the bedside. Fittingly, the residency program at the MGH has named its annual “The Morton N. Swartz Humanism Award” in his honor. Swartz remained active at the MGH until his death.
“I always loved to see Mort coming down the hall. I usually learned something interesting from him, even in a brief moment,” says Paul Russell, MD, senior surgeon and emeritus chief of the MGH Transplantation Unit. “I can remember several patients whom Mort and I were treating together whose whole medical course was changed dramatically because of his contribution.”
Swartz is survived by his children, Mark Swartz and Caroline Armstrong, as well as one grandchild, Juliana. His wife, Cesia, preceded him in death. Funeral services have been held. A memorial service at the MGH will be held at a later date.
Read more articles from the 09/20/13 Hotline issue.