Opinion: How musicians and medical doctors are alike

Posted on: August 13, 2014

In an opinion piece in Monday’s (8/11) Boston Globe, Dr. Christoph Westphal, an amateur cellist and physician/scientist who is on the boards of Harvard Medical School and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, writes, “Music and medicine are twin passions [of mine], and I wondered: Do data exist that underscore a link between these seemingly disparate worlds? … Might a connection explain Boston’s being a world-class city for both music and medicine? It turns out that the Boston Symphony Orchestra tracks specific data linking music and medicine. Roughly one-fifth of the audience for winter season BSO concerts consists of MDs or PhDs. Moreover, physicians and scientists are similarly overrepresented on the board of the orchestra.… Curiously, the converse is also true: Many more physicians have been trained musically than in the general population. According to the work of Harvard Medical School professor Alan Steere, over 70 percent of doctors have received musical training. Many physician musicians in Boston have found their home in the all-doctor Longwood Symphony Orchestra.… Both music and medicine require dedication, discipline, and creativity.… Creative insights permit the best physicians to treat the most difficult diseases. Inspiration is similarly required of musicians to reveal the deep inner beauty of music.”

Posted August 13, 2014