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It's been estimated that one third of our lives is spent at work. Yet, despite the vast amount of time we spend interacting with colleagues, how well can we say we really know them?
For the most part at UHN, we put forward our "healthcare" exterior, going about our day displaying our wide-ranging skills that all contribute to patient care. But of course, we all embody many facets and each of us has our own interests and hobbies – such as music.
It turns out that Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) and Toronto General Hospital's (TGH) Emergency Department (ED) has many artists in its midst, particularly musicians. But their passions may have remained unknown if it hadn't been for a call out among staff for a musical guest to play at an upcoming conference.
When the request went out in 2013, Drs. Jennifer Bryan and Jo Jo Leung, both Emergency Medicine physicians, were first to respond. Each played piano and sing, while Dr. Bryan also plays guitar and Dr. Leung, a classically trained musician, plays the violin. They each thought this would be a fun opportunity to showcase their talents.
"We were introduced to each other and basically told to figure it out," recalls Dr. Bryan. "We each play different styles of music so we had to take the time to learn from each other."
The search for a guitarist was short. Dr. Bryan recruited Justin Kwitco whom she'd met through mutual friends about 15 years ago and played with in the band "Intransition" until 2008 when she went to Nova Scotia for medical school. Dr Bryan, Dr Leung and Justin practiced for several months leading up to the conference. The performance was a great success.
Decided to form a band
"Colleagues at the conference were surprised when we first performed, we don't usually talk about activities and interests outside of work," says Dr. Bryan. "There were some staff who didn't even realize we were part of the Emergency team, they thought we were just 'the band.'"
At first, the musicians chalked up the experience to something that had been fun to do. But when they were invited to play the conference again the following year, they didn't hesitate to accept and decided to form a band. With the addition of Dr. Telisha Smith-Gorvie, also a UHN Emergency Medicine colleague who plays bass guitar, Jenn and the Holograms was born. Playing the conference has now become a tradition.
Though music and emergency medicine may appear to have little in common, the group easily identifies the parallels.
"There is a lot of opportunity for creativity and innovation in emergency medicine," says Dr. Bryan "And the same skills are needed for being an artist."
"There is a strong teamwork aspect in healthcare, and some things that you do as a team are often unsaid," adds Dr. Smith-Gorvie. "Whether you are taking care of a sick patient or playing together in a band, you have to rely on each other and learn how to take each other's cues."
Although the ED conference circuit has been fun, the band is ready to take their set to the next level. On Monday, Jenn and the Holograms bring their music to the public at TWH's Art in the Atrium, a monthly artists' performance showcase hosted by TWH's Al and Malka Green Artists' Health Centre (AHC).
Music has therapeutic benefits
"UHN's Volunteer Resources contacted me about Jenn and the Holograms and whether there were opportunities for them to perform," says Matthew Eldridge, Coordinator/Health Promoter, AHC. "We're looking forward to hearing their music and showcasing how different groups perform their art."
Research has consistently shown that art has therapeutic benefits that can be used in a variety of settings, including healthcare.
"Art can be an outlet for people, a form of expression, and it helps people connect," says Matthew. "Art in the Atrium is a great initiative in that it supports artists, brings art to the TWH community, and has this balanced interaction of healthcare and art as our performers are often either health practitioners or, in some cases, artists who also live with health conditions."
Jenn and the Holograms are looking forward to the broader audience. Between them, the band members have a collective musical catalogue that spans from the 1920s to today. And they greatly appreciate the encouragement they've received from their department that has helped to keep their alter-egos as rock stars alive.
"The support from our colleagues has really allowed us to do this, especially when it means trading shifts so we can carve out time to practice together," says Dr. Leung. "We're really excited to bring our music – and the talents of the ED – to a wider community. It will be great to connect with others and to experience the hospital in a completely different way."
Art in the Atrium occurs monthly from noon – 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month. Artists interested in performing are encouraged to contact Matthew Eldridge at TWH's Al and Malka Green Artists' Health Centre.