We use cookies to improve your experience on our site. Please accept the Privacy Policy to continue.

Michael Goldstein, MD

Michael Goldstein, MD

NYC Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur

Connections Through Music

Laughter may be the best medicine, but Dr. Michael Goldstein – a psychiatrist at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur – ups the dose by adding another healing element: music. As a trained jazz musician who later entered psychiatry, he knows the value – and charm – of riffing and improvising.

When a patient refused to cooperate, he noticed her tattoos and figured that anyone with so many tattoos must be into music. “I’ll get out of your hair if you answer three quick questions,” he told her. Question 1: Do you like music? She shrugged yes. Question 2: Do you know Twisted Sister? She shrugged yes. Question 3: Who is the singer? She scoffed that it was Dee Snyder, but Dr. Goldstein rebuffed: “No. His name is Daniel Schneider, I sold him his first guitar, and we bar mitzvahed together.” The patient cooperated after that.

Asked to choose between accountability, compassion, excellence, integrity and respect, Dr. Goldstein replied: “Having been a jazz musician, is it all right to improvise a bit here and say: all? I think they are all possibly interrelated with the root being: always caring and trying to do my best to imagine myself in the other person’s shoes. I am not sure I am excellent in any of these categories, but I do my best to always try in all of them.”

He is a tertiary consultant, the person summoned after both the internist and psychiatrist are flummoxed. He strolls in, motorcycle helmet in hand and a swish of salsa in his stride, to find connections with patients – often through music. For a world-famous opera singer, it was a casual debate over whether or not Jussi Björling is the world’s best tenor. With another patient, it was gossip about jazz great Sonny Rollins, who had been the patient’s fellow inmate at Rikers Island.

Dr. Goldstein’s specialty is vulnerability, whether in geriatric psychiatry or research in 1992 about the benefits of roommates for HIV-positive patients with depression.

Meet all the Doctors’ Day Honorees ➤