Doctor 007

Let’s imagine an action-packed screenplay full of suspense and intrigue and romance (just a little) and… medicine.  Yes, medicine. And why not? After all, in medicine we have potential for biochemical warfare, technological advances in diagnosing infectious disease in relatively remote areas , glasses that would detect the slightest bit of emotion in an enemy’s expression, issues of governmental influence, conlicts of interest, and public confusion surrounding the intent of our efforts. Take the CIA’s strategy to catch Bin Laden by implementing a vaccination campaign, for example. Legitimate controversy surrounds this approach, but even the most imaginative screenwriter couldn’t have written that storyline.

Well, if one were to write this Bond-esque screenplay, the hero/heroine would likely be unrelenting and bullheaded. At times, he/she might be somewhat simplistic in his/her purist nature. This person would be dealing with frequent bureaucratic issues and reprimands from above while still trying to save the world from injustices. This doctor would have no time for meaningful relationships and would most likely be closer to a “cowboy” than a member of the “pit crew.” Like Bond, this doctor would be simultaneously loved and hated.

And if one were to produce this screenplay, there would be no need for a new theme song, as it has already been written:

Lyrics (though the music –having the classic 007  “feel” to it – is worth listening to):

Monday finds you like a bomb

That’s been left there ticking there too long

You’re bleeding

Some days there’s nothing left to learn

From the point of no return

You’re leaving

Hey hey I saved the world today

Everybody’s happy now

The bad things gone away

And everybody’s happy now

The good thing’s here to stay

Please let it stay

There’s a million mouths to feed

And I’ve got everything i need

I’m breathing

And there’s a hurting thing inside

But I’ve got everything to hide

I’m grieving

Hey hey I saved the world today

Everybody’s happy now

The bad things gone away

And everybody’s happy now

The good thing’s here to stay

Please let it stay

Doo doo doo doo doo the good thing

Hey hey I saved the world today

Everybody’s happy now

The bad things gone away

And everybody’s happy now

The good thing’s here to stay

Please let it stay

Everybody’s happy now

*Thanks to Jan Handerson for inspiring this post by pointing out the appropriateness of this song to the field of medicine (sometimes, anyways).

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Why the Show Must Go On

Last night, I attended a concert put on by Robert Plant and The Band of Joy. It was an excellent performance. Of course, to see a legend perform is always amazing. There is something about witnessing someone in his element that is so inspiring. The energy in the theater, particularly towards the end of the performance, was infectious. The crowd, which appeared to span the age range of adolescence into the 60s, was mesmerized and star struck. (And a few were perhaps a little under the influence of something else that my olfactory sense detected).

I have written before about music and medicine and its value for a physician. It is very personal, as well. Music is inextricable with my life. Having started playing the piano at age 5 or 6, then the clarinet in grade school (and then other endeavors best left to be discussed in person), I have learned much about life through musicianship. Three years ago, I took up the guitar and have been hooked since. I was fortunate to find an excellent teacher who possesses equal patience for a busy physician who tries her best to practice and for 4-year-olds with significantly limited attention spans.

Each year, my teacher arranges a “recital.” This is not your average recital. In fact, it is called “The Jam.” You can play solo or have a band backing you up. You can even sing, if you care to share your voice. During the first year of my lessons, I declined to perform. At that time, I hadn’t performed in a few years and felt uncomfortable now that had become a physician. Why would people want to see a doctor strumming a six-string? Would I be held to a higher standard? When I started taking lessons, I was conflicted enough about what it meant to be a doctor and to continue to pursue music that my teacher didn’t know what I did for a living for at least a year. At times, I questioned why I was even taking the lessons. Somewhat of a Type A perfectionist, I would often get frustrated by slower progress than I was expecting, and I have contemplated cancelling my performance in these recitals at the last minute, including a performance coming up next week (!).

Before a public performance (which I simultaneously look forward to and dread) my heart races a bit and my palms get a little sweaty. I know what I should play because I rehearsed it over and over and I can hear it in my head, but it all comes down to this one very short moment in time. I get a little anxious. I don’t know how I will be received. I might even mess up. The faces of the audience may express boredom or perplexity or excitement. Ideally, at the end, I would feel support from the audience. Otherwise, my fears of dismissal or even disapproval will come true.

Does this sound familiar?

So, last night, as I was watching the performance of legendary artist and growing nervous about mine, I was reminded why this hobby has value for me as a physician. What I described above could just as easily have been a patient experience in an office visit. Sure, it’s not a crowd. It’s definitely not a hobby for a patient. But the pathophysiology and emotions involved in facing a doctor during a relatively brief office is similar.

Most people seem to prefer to “perform” in life within a realm of comfort or mastery. But there is something to be said for trying something with which you are not familiar. When we tread uncharted waters, we remind ourselves of our vulnerability. There is nothing like a bit of nervousness or fear to remind you of your humanness.

This is why, despite my nerves, the show must go on.

Wish me luck.

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Music in Medicine: Not Just for the Surgeons

Earlier this month, I had a conversation with a family member about her observation that many physicians are musicians. A few days later, I encountered an interesting blog post by Rahul Parikh, MD entitled “The Truth about Music in the Operating Room,” which included interesting facts about the relationship between music and medicine. For example, there are studies that have shown more steady vital signs in doctors performing surgeries to music – even with rock music.

It seems obvious that the manual dexterity and discipline required of musicians would be requirements for surgeons, as well. As a musician, myself, I recall being drawn to procedural specialties during medical school. Once I had the unique opportunity to “open” a case with a gynecologist performing a laparoscopic tubal ligation because all of the residents were at a conference. My attending was closely monitoring me, of course, but the patient was in the good, steady hands of a pianist/clarinetist. Aside from the technical aspects, operations performed to music seemed to be associated with better communication, a calmer environment, and a greater sense of teamwork.  

Surgeons are not the only physicians who can benefit from music during the workday, although it seems they are the only ones afforded the ideal venue, with a “protected” space and time during their procedures. Listening to music while seeing 20+ patients a day is possible and not as distracting as one may think. What’s more, doing so might just keep a physician sane.

At one point, I had a small space in a room with both an ARNP and RN. Phone calls and conversations were very distracting. But I found that listening to music kept me focused on my tasks. (Other publications have referred to studies that corroborate this effect). Of course, I used earphones to keep from bothering my officemates, which probably reduced unnecessary interruptions, as well. Even if there is limited time, as little as two measures of a favorite melody can not only calm you, but reconnect you to your human side, the one most important to relating to your patients. Without that side, after all, it would be easy to function as a robot, seeing patient after patient after patient. It’s not for everyone, however. For example, physicians who do not regularly listen to or feel a particular benefit from music may be more distracted by it.

The true value of music is in the way it takes us outside of ourselves and our narrow minds and repetitive thoughts.  This is important during and outside of our workday. Music encourages creativity, calmness, inspiration, and productivity. What more can you ask for in the work environment? It even inspires me as I write this blog post….

How Music Can Be Like a Drug

photo from freedigitalphotos.net. by dream designs

I couldn’t agree more with this post I came across on getbetterhealth.com. I also agree with the song choice represented. Adagio for Strings is one of my favorite pieces, but DJ Tiesto’s version takes it to another level.
(I wonder if I should play this when patients who are depressed or in pain are waiting in the exam room for me.)

http://getbetterhealth.com/why-a-song-can-get-you-high/2011.01.18

Happy listening.