The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

‘Doctors in Concert’ celebrates medicine, music for UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital

Many talented doctors also have backgrounds including musical performance. At Friday night’s ‘Doctors in Concert’ event, these physicians traded lab coats for microphones as they participated in a fundraiser for the Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Emma Gutzman
Doctors in Concert at the Coralville Center for the Preforming Arts on April, 5th, 2024. Isaac Samuel and Joel Berger preforming. (Emma Gutzman/The Daily Iowan)

Some of Iowa City’s musically-talented doctors traded their white coats and stethoscopes for instruments and microphones for an evening of giving on April 5. The “Doctors in Concert” event returned to intersect music and medicine for the first time in seven years.

The concert was originally develope d in 2013 as a fundraising event to support the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital. While admission was free, attendees were encouraged to make donations to support the hospital, which they could do either in person or through a QR code provided in the programs.

After raising over $25,000 for the hospital through the event between 2013 and 2017, West Music experienced staff shortages and was forced to repeatedly postpone the event.

The intention was to restart the annual concert in spring 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic halted plans for another few years.

“Thanks in part to Dr. [Isaac] Samuel and some other doctors being really persistent, we’ve been able to get this going again,” trumpet player Evan Fowler said.

Fowler oversees West Music’s community outreach in both Iowa City and Coralville, which is how he got involved in the fundraiser.

Many doctors who performed on April 5 have long been tied to their artistic endeavors and value the chance to perform in front of a crowd. This includes bariatric surgeon Isaac Samuel, who has worked in the Department of Surgery at the UI for 25 years.

Samuel’s ties to the arts go back years. Beginning with medical school in India, Samuel has also lived in London and Chicago before finally arriving in Iowa City.

“Before I came abroad, my background was more in theater. I wrote my own plays acted in them, and produced them with my friends at a pretty young age,” Samuel said. “When I was in medical school in India, I also belonged to a semi-professional theater group.”

As part of this group, Samuel was invited to different cities to perform in plays, as well as to write and develop some of them.

His works were later staged in London.

“I’d finished all my exams and had my next job lined up at Northwestern. So I found myself with a free year in London, where I could focus on my extracurriculars before I went back to my academics and research in Chicago,” Samuel said.

Samuel’s focus shifted from theater to music upon his arrival in Iowa City.

“I was encouraged to take some guitar lessons with teachers who specialize in songwriting,” Samuel said. “So I kept writing songs and did some coaching with the best music teachers.”

Eventually, this interest in songwriting inspired Samuel and his coaches to start a songwriting workshop, as many people in the Iowa City area were writing and performing their own songs. The group started with six people but soon expanded to include about 15.

“That’s where I get my monthly dose of music,” Samuel said.

Over the past few years, Samuel has written several original songs, some of which he has performed at Doctors in Concert, since getting involved in 2016. He cites 2017 as a particularly special year because his own kids were allowed to join him on stage.

“My kids were in elementary school, and I convinced them to come up on stage and participate with me. That was very cute, getting them involved,” Samuel said.

This year, Samuel was more than happy to return to Doctors in Concert due to both his continued appreciation for art and music as well as his admiration of the children’s hospital. He was also the artist who began the night, introducing audiences to two of his own songs.

Following Samuel’s performance came the musical talents of Joel Berger, Alexandra Nica, the band TURKANA, Brian Gehlbach, and Ernie Found, who was joined on stage by Bill Emerson, Lily Westemeyer, and Barry Westemeyer.

“I loved how diverse the different types of music were in the performance,” audience member Jenna Link said.

Link attended the event to support Nica, along with fellow attendee Calvin McElvain. Nica currently works in the Tippie College of Business and had several of her students in attendance for her performance.

“She’s a genius. I knew she was good at piano, but I didn’t know she was that good,” McElvain said.

Both Link and McElvain also enjoyed getting to watch the Turkish band TURKANA in particular, because the band exposed them to a different type of music.

“The thing that’s unique about our event is that we have physicians who play instruments other than piano,” Fowler said. “We have guitar and jazz performers, and a Turkish music performance as well. It’s quite a variety of talent that we have onstage.”

The night ended with a send-off from Found and company, who played a rousing rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” before concluding with the University of Iowa’s fight song. However, the connection between doctors and music spreads far beyond the confines of Iowa City.

“When I was in school, there were people getting degrees in music who wanted to go on to have a career in something outside of music,” Fowler said. “Maybe they were getting a music performance degree and then intended to go to medical school, or law school. And music was something they had chosen to focus on earlier in life.”

Fowler recalled talking to his dentist about this connection and how she had gotten her undergraduate degree in piano performance from Northwestern University.

He credits the connection between medicine and music to the fact that both require a lot of focus, practice, and creativity.

“A creative mindset, hunger for knowledge, and need for improvement — that exists both in being a physician and in being an artist, whether that be in music or in visual art,” Fowler said.

Fowler believes that performing music is always a special experience and hopes that people will take their talents and share them with their community, family, and friends.

“The hospital and university are both right at the center of our community, both literally and figuratively,” Fowler said. “These performers are showing that they are more than just white coats. These people have personalities.”

Both Fowler and Samuel hope the new installment of Doctors in Concert will return to being an annual event, as both a fundraiser and community outreach.

“It’s cool to see all of these doctors that are still living their passion,” Link said.

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.