David M. Schwaber knows the good fortune of crossing paths with Johns Hopkins Nurses. He’s out to make their journey smoother.
Written by Steve St. Angelo | Photo by Chris Hartlove
David M. Schwaber, a PhD in polymer science, knows plastics, resins, and rubbers; how to put elements together to build something stronger and longer-lasting; how to design and manufacture an athletic shoe component that can help its wearer win the Boston Marathon (twice). He knows what good fortune looks like, having sold a successful Baltimore company (owned with a partner) and retired to a life he and wife Alena, also a polymer scientist, have filled with world travel and a bold, eclectic collection of paintings, prints, and sculptures.
And Dr. Schwaber can rattle off the names of the Johns Hopkins physicians who have twice saved his life in medical emergencies.
The nurses’ names? Unfortunately, no. But he remembers the care and impact they had on his experience. He is hardly alone, of course, as part of a patient-caregiver dynamic that is only very slowly changing as nurses take a greater role in not just laying on hands but researching, establishing, and leading health care across medical systems. But the idea that nurses could be so easily overlooked bugs him. (Dr. Schwaber is quick to report that, after a chance encounter, he can name a nurse who cared for his father in his final days as a cancer patient at Johns Hopkins, a knowledge he treasures.)
If you are able to accumulate wealth, you should do something good with it.”
Dr. Schwaber had also been looking to make a difference in his Baltimore hometown, as a way to honor the hard work of his employees and all those who had influenced or supported him along the way to success. “If you are able to accumulate wealth, you should do something good with it,” he says, “not just grow it.”
A mentor in a similarly fortunate position spoke of his own “adoption” of the nursing program at a local community college. Then COVID struck, with legions of mostly anonymous nurses hustling to the front lines, and the elements aligned. Dr. Schwaber’s subsequent gift-giving includes $1.32 million to support nursing students from Baltimore City through scholarship aid.
Alena Schwaber, who grew up under a communist regime in Zlin—part of the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe—is in equal parts proud of her husband’s generosity and amazed that such a thing is even possible. “I am admiring that someone like David could do something like this. I admire people who are supporting hospitals and schools after they achieve in their own lives.”
David Schwaber is grateful to have found a good cause. (“Nursing is a noble field,” he says.) And he likes the idea that his gift today will continue to pay off well into the future by helping the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing keep expanding the limits of what nurses can do and can mean to their communities.
Nursing isn’t a sprint, after all … it’s a marathon. And Dr. Schwaber is determined to help those future nurses go the extra mile.