The rare number of New Horizons residents in northwest Georgia who find themselves in the COVID-19 ward now, beset with mild symptoms and upset over the inconvenience of being moved from their rooms after testing positive, tend to grouse to their medical director.
And she loves it.
It’s not that Swati Gaur is unsympathetic — quite the contrary. She just remembers when there weren’t vaccines, when her facility’s COVID ward had as many as 42 residents, and the complaints were not as easily treated.
Gaur, AMDA’s 2022 Medical Director of the Year and chair of the group’s Infection Advisory Committee during the pandemic, made vaccines an early priority after studying and seeing a significant advantage in early results. She immediately pushed for nursing home residents and staff to be given top priority. By Jan. 10, 2021, New Horizons was COVID-free. During subsequent surges, the effects were minimal, with never more than eight residents in the COVID ward.
“I wish I had her perseverance and talent for how to bring out the best in people, to bring out the best in their organization,” says Robin Jump, MD, PhD, associate director of the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center for the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, who has worked with Gaur on the Infection Advisory Committee for about a decade.
Married to Abhishek Gaur, a cardiologist, and raising two sons — a Brown University freshman with insight and empathy beyond his years and a 2021 graduate who was a college Jeopardy champion — Gaur has had a way of finding a light in the dark during the pandemic.
“As difficult as it was and as traumatic as it may have felt at that point … if you’re able to make a difference in people’s lives, you can’t have anything but gratitude,” she says.
Whether strolling through her carefully manicured garden to forage bouquets or ingredients for a salad, hearing her son play piano as she made dinner nearby, or wrapping herself in a collection of colorful, handcrafted saris, she found joys that served as a refuge.
Her sari collection also is part of a deeper affinity for the artistry and talented human touch required when the gowns are crafted by hand with a loom, representative of the “slow fashion” movement that values long-lasting quality and natural materials.
Gaur grew up in India as one of three siblings and attended 10 different schools in 12 years because of her father’s traveling police assignments. Raised by a tigress of a mother who insisted girls be treated no differently than boys, Gaur graduated from medical school in Bhopal, India, before moving to New York to begin her career.
In the US, she discovered the artistry of geriatric medicine.
Gaur says she learned early in life that we owe a debt to the earth and the people who help us grow.
“In the same vein, what we are able to enjoy is the work of people that have come before us,” she says.
Her work, she adds, “allows me to show my gratitude to the generation that has come before.”
1996 Earns bachelor of medicine and surgery degrees from MBBS University of Bhopal
1997-1999 Completes internal medicine residencies
2001 Becomes geriatric medicine fellow at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
2001-2006 Serves as medical director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Georgia
2007-present Owner and medical director, Senior Care Office LLC
2012-present Medical director of New Horizons Nursing Facilities and Transitional Care
2015 Earns MBA from Georgia Institute of Technology
2019-2022 Chairs AMDA’s Society for Post-Acute Long-Term Care Infection Advisory Committee
2019-present Serves on geriatrics faculty at Dartmouth College
2022 Becomes medical director of Alliant Health Solutions Medical; Director of the Georgia Department of Public Health Strike and Support Team