Music, medicine, and money for charity
Some doctors find their leisure-time passion playing musical instruments. In San Antonio, a group of physicians have turned their love of music into a charitable contribution.
The band, originally called "Raul and the MDs," performs at fund-raisers and fiestas sponsored by local organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the National Kidney Foundation, the San Antonio Zoo, and a home for underprivileged children. The band's leader, internist Daniel Juarez, estimates that they've helped such groups raise nearly $500,000 over the past decade. And now they've gone digital: The band recently released a CD to raise awareness about diabetes.
The group started out as just a few guys getting together for casual jam sessions at the gallery of Raul Gutierrez, a local artist and singer. When they began playing for fund-raisers in the early '90s, word got around the medical community. Since then, the band has become a sort of musical merry-go-round: some physicians join for a while; others drop out.
Besides vocalist Gutierrez and internist/guitarist Juarez, regular members include cardiologist Socrates Aramburu and plastic surgeon Julio Ortiz, who alternate on congas, timbals, and bongos, and drummer Jack Bragan, an emergency physician. The group recently changed its name to "The MDs and Company" because they've added chiropractor Ismael Holguin on bass guitar, and his brother Omar, a medical technician, on keyboard. The band plays one or two gigs a month, and rehearses one afternoon each weekend at Holguin's garage.
While it's still a hobby, these physicians take their music and their medicine seriously. "We book our performances months in advance, so that everyone can adjust their schedules, and arrange call coverage," Juarez explains. Hiring "roadies" to transport and set up the equipment is a necessary luxury, since it allows the doctors to schedule patients until just before their concerts.
The band's repertoire ranges from rock and country-western to reggae, salsa, bossa nova, and Tejano numbers, which appeal to San Antonio's large Hispanic population. In fact, audiences often sing along or dance to the music. "This gives us an escape from the stress of our medical careers," says Juarez. "And the audiences get a kick out of our music. Some of them are our patients, and they're surprised to see us performing on stage instead of at work in our white coats or scrubs."
There are occasional professional interruptions, though. Sometimes one of the performers' beepers begins vibrating during a song. "When that happens," says cardiologist Aramburu, "I just tell one of the other guys, 'You keep the rhythm,' and I go and take the call."
Berkeley Rice. Doctors Who Go the Extra Mile: The MDs and Company. Medical Economics 2002;15:88.