Ken, Ellen and Ben

In November of 1994, Ken Schwartz was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. His case was riddled with terrible ironies. He was only 40 and a nonsmoker. He ate well and exercised regularly. He could have been any one of us.

During his 10-month ordeal, Ken came to realize that what matters most during an illness is the human connection between patients  and their caregivers. He wrote movingly about his experience in an article for the Boston Globe Magazine entitled A Patient’s Story. In it, he reminds caregivers to stay in the moment with patients and how “the smallest acts of kindness” make “the unbearable bearable.” His commentary has become a touchstone for the Center and readers all over the country and the world.

At the end of his life, Ken outlined the organization he wanted to create. It would be a center that would nurture the compassion in healthcare, encouraging the sorts of caregiver-patient relationships that made all the difference to him. He founded the Schwartz Center in 1995 – just days before his death – to ensure that all patients receive compassionate and humane care.

The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare’s mission is simple but compelling: to promote compassionate care so that patients and their caregivers relate to one another in a way that provides hope to the patient, support to caregivers and sustenance to the healing process.

“These acts of kindness – the simple human touch from my caregivers – have made the unbearable bearable” – Ken Schwartz

The Center’s pioneering programs:

•    Improve communication between patients and caregivers

•    Promote compassion and empathy

•    Enhance spiritual care

•    Influence caregiver training

•    Encourage the dissemination of best practices

•    Empower patients and families


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“A Patient’s Story” Request Form

Click here to order reprints of Ken’s article at no cost. Academic institutions are encouraged to order multiple copies for medical, nursing or allied health students.

Watch Our Video

Watch our short, 4-minute video about the Schwartz Center, our programs and why compassionate healthcare matters.

Read Our 2017 Annual Report

Read about our most recent accomplishments in our 2017 online annual report, including the progress we are making in the areas of programs, thought leadership and more.

The Schwartz Center is an autonomous, nonprofit organization operating under the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Its independent Board of Directors has complete discretion over the Center’s budget. 

The Schwartz Center relies on tax-deductible charitable contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals to carry out its work.