Health Team

Banjo-picking doctor cares about patients

Posted February 9, 2011

— A doctor at UNC Hospitals is determined to do away with cold, impersonal medicine and to make his patients feel special – even if it means bringing along his banjo.

"I hate for people to be just a patient or a case, so I try to always find out who the person is," cardiologist David Tate said.

Tate picks his banjo – signed by legendary Earl Scruggs – as part of the band Fescue 911. He also puts on impromptu concerts for patients to lift their spirits.

Bob Bergstand, 90, has been the audience for many bluegrass concerts while being treated for a urinary tract infection. He joked that he hopes they don't show up on his bill.

"I couldn't afford them all," said Bergstand.

Fescue 911 fiddler Jan Johannson was also once in Bergstand's position, as a patient of Tate who was receiving a portable heart pump.

"I was feeling pretty lonely, and all of a sudden, the door opens, and here is David (Tate) with some of his friends," Johannson said.

Tate said he tailors his concerts to the patient's personal interests.

"Depending on the spirit of things, sometimes we'll play a spiritual. Sometimes we'll play a hoe-down," he said.

fescue 911 Doctor gives hospital patients the gift of music

If a patient doesn't appreciate banjo music, Tate will change his methods. He's been known to bring his putting green into the room of a patient who's a fellow avid golfer.

The special attention helps patients forget about their sterile surroundings and illness, if only for a few minutes, he said.

"If I can use music as a way to do that, I'll do it, and I'll get a lot more out of it than they do, I'm quite certain," Tate said.

He said that getting know patients as individuals can also help physicians make better decisions about their care.


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  • cathyem44 Feb 14, 2011

    Dr Tate is a wonderful doctor !! We love him, he is my brother's doctor and we are so thankful for him.

  • Heather Feb 11, 2011

    I also have a doctor who treats all his patients as people - allows ample time for appointment and never makes you wait for more than a few minutes. Way to go Dr. Tate! We need many more like you!

  • jsc1990 Feb 10, 2011

    Love it and for sure BLUEGRASS rocks! Nothing like a great number to pick up the spirits and make you forget what ails you! Pick on Fescue, I will be looking to see if you might hit the area festivals anytime soon.....Pretty Smooth Pickin!!!!

  • maybelle Feb 10, 2011

    Way to go Doc. Most doctors know you more as a number and do not treat you as a person. A little music goes a long way.