August 28, 2020

Class of 2019’s Nathan Wood, M.D., wins MTV nomination for viral rendition of ‘Lean on Me’

Wayne State University School of Medicine-educated physician.

Institute of Culinary Education-trained chef.

ABC News Medical Unit contributor.

MTV award nominee.

Class of 2019 alumnus Nathan Wood, M.D., might have the most diverse resume of any doctor practicing medicine today.

Dr. Wood is nominated for a MTV Video Music Award in the Everyday Heroes: Frontline Medical Workers category for his performance of “Lean on Me.” He recorded the song for his Instagram, @drchefnate, after an exhausting 14-hour night shift on the intensive care unit at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. He was an Internal Medicine/Primary Care intern at the time.

The hospital’s first COVID-19 patient was admitted to the unit that night in March, his last before a planned two weeks of vacation.

“People in health care, we were really nervous. It was like, ‘Okay, who knows what this is going to be like?,’” he said. “When I went back, the whole hospital had changed.”

The New Haven breakout happened in late March, around the same time as that in New York City. Entire floors had to be converted to COVID-19 units. “It was pretty wild after for a long time. By July, things had gotten back to normal. We had hundreds and hundreds of COVID patients. It was pretty severe for a while,” he said.

Dr. Wood, now a second-year resident, wasn’t going to post the original video at all because he saw flaws in his singing and piano playing. Then singer-songwriter Bill Withers died March 30, and he wanted to honor him.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s genuine, and hopefully it’s a nice tribute to him,” he said.

A couple of days later, he woke up to an email from a New York producer “who put it on his morning show, and it went wild after that,” he said.

The MTV recognition came out of nowhere as well. He arrived home from a walk, opened his computer and checked a very official-looking email from the television network.

Music has always been a creative outlet for the doctor, who took piano lessons through high school and continues to sing at churches, weddings and fundraisers. Cooking was a pastime as well, so much that he took a year off medical school at WSU to attend the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, and even spent time working in restaurants. He loves to write as well, and is in the middle of a four-week internship in the Medical Unit for ABC News, proofing scripts for ABC’s nightly news and “Good Morning America,” and writing for ABCNews.com.

What’s his advice for juggling so many different gigs? “You have to have a balance of long-term and short-term projects. And it feels much less like work if they’re things you really enjoy. You have to really get to know yourself, find hobbies you enjoy, and make them part of your daily and academic vocational life. Don’t be afraid. If you really like something, share it with the world. Because people like passion.”

The Muskegon, Mich., native is still not sure if the category will be included in the 8 p.m., Aug. 30 broadcast, or if the nomination is the recognition for him and the four other nominees.

Tune in to MTV or MTV.com to find out.