Dr. Lee Schwamm of Yale School of Medicine receives the 2023 Chairman’s Award

The American Heart Association will present its 2023 Chairman’s Award to Lee H. Schwamm, M.D., FAHA, of the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Schwamm will be recognized during the presidential session on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023 at the Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023. The meeting, to be held in Philadelphia, Saturday, Nov. 11 through Monday, Nov. 13, is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science.

Dr. Schwamm is the associate dean of digital strategy and transformation in the Office of the Dean and professor of biomedical informatics and data sciences at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. He is also the senior vice president and chief digital health officer for Yale New Haven Health System.

Dr. Schwamm is a neurologist who has dedicated his career to advancing clinical care for stroke patients. He is an internationally recognized expert in the implementation of stroke systems of care, and in the prevention, diagnosis and acute treatment of stroke, especially in the young and those with cryptogenic stroke (strokes without a known cause). Dr. Schwamm is the co-creator of the Association’s Get With The Guidelines® (GWTG)-Stroke quality improvement initiative, which launched in 2001 and helps hospitals deliver optimal, evidence-based care derived from the latest scientific advances and clinical practice guidelines. More than 2,600 hospitals in the U.S. participate in this program, tracking and recording the de-identified care of approximately 13 million patient records while simultaneously making these data available to researchers across the country via a secure platform maintained by the Association. In addition to serving as a benchmark for measuring the quality of care, researchers are able to use data from the GWTG platform to identify opportunities for improvement and to help develop new interventions to address them.

Dr. Schwamm was also instrumental in the development of — and later the adoption of — telemedicine for stroke care called telestroke, which has become a routine part of acute stroke care, and the selection of patients for thrombolytic and endovascular therapy in the U.S. and globally. He also developed the first, large-scale, national, academic telestroke and teleneurology network that supports 50-plus rural, community and suburban hospitals in seven U.S. states. This telestroke network provides access to high-quality stroke care without the need for an in-person neurologist in every community.

Dr. Schwamm is a tireless advocate for the use of telemedicine and digital health solutions to improve stroke outcomes and reduce disparities in access to care, and he was a key architect of the FAST Act of 2018 that expanded Medicare coverage for telestroke care regardless of geography. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person care at hospitals and clinics were halted, Dr. Schwamm was a national leader in virtual care transformation and enabled the delivery of 1.8 million virtual visits over the first six months of the pandemic for patients at the Mass General Brigham Health System in Massachusetts. As the pandemic has receded, he continues to drive telemedicine and digital health adoption and competency, and he is working with the Association on a new telemedicine education and credentialing program that will debut in 2024.

“It is a tremendous honor to present this year’s Chairman’s Award to Dr. Lee Schwamm for his invaluable contributions to improving patient care, ” said Marsha Jones, volunteer chairperson of the board of the American Heart Association. “Lee has been a pioneer for telehealth since its inception, particularly in stroke care. He has demonstrated the dramatic differences that could be made in stroke patients’ lives if the emergency care team had virtual access to a neurologist before arriving at the hospital. His dedicated, ongoing, volunteer leadership and participation in the American Heart Association and the greater health care community for nearly three decades continue to help close the gaps between scientific research and clinical practice. As a result of his resolve, more patients have a chance for better outcomes after a major cardiovascular event like a stroke, regardless of where they live.” 

Before joining Yale in early 2023, Dr. Schwamm was professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School; the C. Miller Fisher Endowed Chair in Vascular Neurology, executive vice chair of neurology, director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center and director of the Center for Telehealth for Massachusetts General Hospital; and system vice president of digital patient experience and virtual care at Mass General Brigham Health System. While he led the health system’s efforts to expand capacity for virtual health visits with patients during the first six months of the pandemic, he also introduced a portfolio of other virtual patient care solutions focused on improving access and care.

In addition to his clinical and administrative roles, Dr. Schwamm has an outstanding record of mentorship. He is known for nurturing, supporting and encouraging junior faculty, and he has personally trained and mentored dozens of neurology fellows.

Dr. Schwamm earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard and a medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School. He completed an internship in neurology and fellowships in neurocritical care and vascular neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“I’m deeply humbled by this recognition from the Association,” said Dr. Schwamm. “Integrating technology and digital innovation into medical practice can improve quality, lower cost and reduce the health disparities that are associated with social determinants of health. My work with the Association has been some of the most meaningful and impactful of my career, and I encourage all of you to find greater meaning in your work by engaging with your peers, finding new ways to translate evidence into practice, and continuing to advance the future of stroke care.”

Dr. Schwamm has been an active volunteer for the Association for nearly 25 years including serving on the Association’s national board of directors. He is also a past chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee and the Association’s Quality Certification Science Committee. He is a past member of the Advocacy Coordinating Committee and a current member of the Stroke Systems of Care Advisory Group, the Quality Oversight Committee, the Health Technology Advisory Group and the Center for Telehealth Expert Panel.

Dr. Schwamm was also involved in the creation of the Association’s Bernard J. Tyson Career Development Award, which provides a travel scholarship for people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to attend the Association’s annual International Stroke Conference and one year of mentorship with a leading stroke scientist. He provided invaluable guidance to the Association during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he was honored with the 2022 Gold Heart Award, the Association’s highest volunteer honor, and the 2023 Paul Dudley White Award honoring his decades of improving outcomes for people with stroke. In addition to his contributions to the Association, Dr. Schwamm is an internationally recognized health services researcher and author of nearly 600 peer-reviewed scientific papers.