Paul Haidet, professor of medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, visited the School of Medicine on Thursday evening to discuss the intersection between his two passions — medicine and jazz — and to honor Michael Davidson GRD ’96, who died in 2015.

The talk was organized by the School of Medicine’s class of 1996, said Julie Rosenbaum MED ’96, a professor at the School of Medicine. Robert Davidson, Michael’s father, told the News that the event was a fitting tribute to his son, who he said “loved medicine, loved life and loved the humanities.” Davidson was shot by the son of one of his patients outside an exam room in Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2015.

The event drew about 30 attendees interested in jazz, medicine and, in some cases, both.

Haidet opened the talk with a short introduction about himself and the song of the evening, Bill Evans’ 1956 jazz standard “Waltz for Debby.” Over the course of the next hour, Haidet played three versions of the song for the crowd. Before hitting play on the first version of the song, Haidet asked the attendees to form small discussion groups, letting the audience know that he would not follow the traditional format of a speech.

Audience members were quick to point out that the first version of the piece resembled a traditional piano waltz. The second version of the song, performed by the Oscar Peterson Trio, brought in a bassist and drummer to complement the pianist and keep time. The third version of the song featured a bassist and drummer, who periodically broke off from the main sweep of the song into their own melodies and rhythms.

Haidet asked the audience whether the three versions of the songs could serve as an analogy for the health care system. Members of the audience said the piano, the center of attention in each version, could represent doctors, while the bass and drums could represent other staff, like nurses and physicians assistants, who operate in the health care arena.

“I love the swing of Oscar Peterson, and I love the lyricism and democracy of the Bill Evans Trio, so I’m going to say that I like them both for different reasons,” Haidet said. “As a doctor, I want to be like Bill Evans.”

Michael Davidson was a creative person, both in his professional career and personal life, according to Rosenbaum, his former classmate. In college, Davidson taught himself to play guitar. Later in life, he taught himself to resurface floors and fly fish.

“Michael always took on new challenges in very creative ways, and many of them had nothing to do with medicine. He was very engaged with life in many, many ways, and his family,” Rosenbaum said. “We thought that this merger within the Program for Humanities in Medicine would be a really good way to honor that and his memory.”

Robert Davidson opened the event with a short address about his son’s life, from his childhood to his residency position at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Davidson described his son as a man who cared deeply about his medical practice but also had a lifelong passion for music, even playing guitar in a band while off the clock. It was the confluence of these two areas of the younger Davidson’s life that made Haidet a perfect speaker for the tribute, Robert Davidson said.

For the elder Davidson, among others, the main takeaway from Haidet’s lecture was that all participants in the health care system need to improve how they communicate and that doctors, in particular, must remember to listen.

Rosenbaum said the talk made her reconsider her own relationships with other staff members at Yale New Haven Hospital.

“It’s one thing to go to a lecture and have someone tell you what to think. It’s something else when it gets drawn out from your own experience,” Rosenbaum said. “In situations with patients and the staff that I work with, I will be thinking a little bit more creatively about our distinct roles and the power differentials and about ways we can improvise together and more effectively.”

Maya Chandra |