RED BANK – More than 350 doctors, nurses, aides, maintenance workers and other staff at Riverview Medical Center stopped in the Shrewsbury meeting room at the hospital to add their congratulations and best wishes to retired physician Harvey Swartz at a gala ceremony at the hospital Wednesday.
Hospital personnel had planned the event to honor the Middletown practitioner who maintained a practice on Cherry Tree Farm Road and was on the staff at the Center for 58 years, retiring earlier this year. The reception spanned four hours and included light refreshments so staff members from all shifts could take time to share members of the friendly, outgoing physician who was known for his dedication to the immediate needs of his patients.
Dr. Pranav N. Shah, former Director of Radiology at Riverview, and now in private practice at his home in Colts Neck, said “his career speaks for itself” when describing the impact Swartz has had on the community over nearly six decades. “He was highly dedicated, in love with what he does, and it showed.” Shah said that his own work in radiology had him at the hospital at all times of day or night, but it was never unusual to run into Swartz making rounds regardless of the time. Shah also pointed out that Swartz adapted extremely well to the expansions and changes in the hospital since 1955 when he first started there, because “he just grew with it, from the time it was a small hospital to today, when there are approximately 575 physicians on staff.”
Dr. Phillipa Woodriffe, a Tinton Falls surgeon, echoed those sentiments, saying that like Swartz, she missed the “happy family atmosphere” staff could enjoy as a small hospital compared to the large corporation it has grown into today. “He used to be able to stop me in the hall and give me an update on a patient,” she said of Schwartz, “because he had it all in his memory and knew every patient personally. Today, it’s all on computers and different doctors involved; there isn’t the long-term relationship we used to be able to have with patients.”
Dr. Harry’s son, Dr. Steve Swartz, and his wife, Annie, who also had served as a nurse on staff at Riverview, shared their own stories of the retiring doctor, and the changes modern technology and an expanded hospital have had on medicine. The younger Swartz has merged his own practice, which he shared with his father, with the hospital group, Physician Practice Enhancement, and is the regional Medical Director for the four hospitals in the region. More changes are in the offing Schwartz said, and he remains medical director at Care One Care Center in Middletown.
William and Sandra Best, Middletown residents who have been Swartz’s patients for many years, attended the hospital reception to show their own appreciation for the doctor’s afriendship and offer stories on the doctor’s care of three generations of their family over the years. A retired Middletown Police officer, Best also are called Schwartz’ generosity with time and talent to the township, and “we are just here to show our gratitude and love for a great doctor.”
Nurses were as profuse with praise and admiration for Swartz as the physicians with an emergency room nursing team terming him “sweet, caring, great, and old-fashioned.” Kimberlee Sardinia of Highlands said she has known Swartz for three years, and “he was always just so sweet and so friendly; he always had a nice thing to say to you.” Ruth Chesek of Navesink has known Swartz for the 35 years she also has worked at Riverview and said, “he was definitely a fixture here and while old-fashioned he was brilliant and knowledgeable.” Staff would laugh, she shared, “because if you called him at home for something about a patient, he’d always tell you you had to wait a minute, he’d have to get Renee to get his hearing aid.” Renee, Swartz’s wife, was also remembered fondly by numerous staff members, for her Pecan Bars which the doctor gave in holiday wrapped boxes to every nurse’s station at Christmas. The physician’s wife made hundreds of the bars from her private recipe for many years and had trays of them which were a popular hit on the buffet table at Wednesday’s event; staff members recalled how they looked forward to the treat each year and appreciated their appearance at the retirement reception.
Lisa Ranucci of Interlaken, planned and helped arrange the reception for Swartz and said in her six years on staff at Riverview, she knew if there was any one thing she could say about Swartz it was simply “he was loved by everyone.”