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Singing surgeon hopes to cheer up patients with 'Lean On Me' rendition

Dr. Jamii St. Julien performed Bill Withers' iconic song from the hallway of St. Anthony's Hospital in downtown St. Petersburg the day after Withers died.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dr. Jamii St. Julien hoped his voice would comfort others. He never expected to see it happen so quickly.

“A lot of people have said it made them feel better and relieved anxiety,” the 38-year-old doctor said through a FaceTime call Friday afternoon. “That’s the impact I was going for, but I have been a little surprised how it has uplifted people.”

The surgeon has worked at St. Anthony’s Hospital in downtown St. Petersburg for nearly three years. He primarily does surgeries but has spent time, like many others around the nation this year, helping patients battling complications from COVID-19.

St. Julien’s version of the iconic “Lean On Me” song, was first performed by Bill Withers. Withers died on March 30 at the age of 81.

“When we were thinking about making the video and what song would be right and that was one of the options and we talked about the options I was like, ‘Ooh. That’s the one,’” said St. Julien.

The video was simply done with St. Julien sitting in an empty hospital hallway wearing his scrubs and holding his guitar.

“Don’t touch your face,” ad-libbed St. Julien toward the end of the song. “Just wash your hands. Please stay at home. Give me six feet away. Everybody do your part.”

The singing surgeon spent hours practicing the cords after spending even more time helping patients at his day job. At the end of the YouTube video, which has been viewed nearly 10,000 times in its first day online, St. Julien pleads with viewers to donate to the hospital’s emergency fund to fight COVID-19.

“Please stay home. Stay safe,” he says in the video while clutching his guitar.

The video what shot and edited by local video group Impact Fanatics. St. Julien’s song was recorded the day after Withers died.

“It definitely was a really good experience to be able to put something together to not only impact the hospital but the community as well,” said Impact Fanatics’ founder Mike Otto. “I shoot to show how people are impacting the community and what positivity it’s bringing. It was definitely a message of hope and, for me, that was right in line for what I like to be a part of.”

The fund St. Julien references in the final moments of the clip was established by the hospital foundation to help fund sanitizing efforts and essential equipment to fight COVID-19.

“Now, more than ever, we've come to appreciate the immense commitment of our medical and clinical providers. We are so very grateful to our Foundation friends who have been recently inspired to give gifts (large and small) in response to this pandemic,” the hospital foundation said in a press release. “Thus far, we have been able to allocate money in part, to the purchase of two new ventilators, vital for COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory symptoms. We have also secured a Clorox 360 disinfecting machine to keep all of our St. Anthony's providers and patients safe.

If you would like to support the emergency needs during this coronavirus crisis, we have created the SAHF Coronavirus Response Fund to support our patients, caregivers, and the communities we serve during this challenging time. These funds will ensure swift action to respond to the critical needs of St. Petersburg through St. Anthony's Hospital Foundation.” 

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