People are often shocked when I tell them of my two disciplines. They automatically assume that the two fields are polar opposites and that I must have found some extra hours in the day to pursue both to the extent that I have. For a while I shared this belief and sometimes worried that “Plan B was detracting from plan A (as Will Smith would put it)” but as my competence in both fields continues to develop, I’m beginning to see that the both strengthen each other. It’s perhaps easy to see how the skills I developed through my medical career could help my musical pursuits – most obviously through gaining professional habits and behaviours (it’s amazing how powerful just being punctual can be), but what possible transferable skills could a rapper have? How has being a rapper helped me become a better doctor?
There is a popular Meme currently doing the rounds on my social media feeds. It goes something like “It’s amazing the number of great people in my life I wouldn’t have ever met if it wasn’t for music”. As well as amazing people you also meet some not so amazing people and everything in-between. This is in stark contrast to the variety of people I was exposed to as a medical student. I was very much in the minority, being mixed race and coming from a state school.
I can’t speak for all medical schools, but the med students at my university (Birmingham, UK) were pretty much siphoned off from the rest of the campus. We had a separate building removed from most of the other courses. This isolation and socio-demographic distillation I believe is why communication has to be taught as a separate skill for Doctors. Having met and enjoyed spiritual moments with all manner of person through my music, I always found communication second nature and it’s only reflecting now that I realise that this may not have been the case had I not spent so much time rapping.
Having another passion and not letting medicine completely take over my life has been a protective factor for burnout for me and interestingly makes my approach to practicing medicine more patient-centric. It’s well established that compliance with medical advice is very low. I’ve read studies where up to 70% of medicines prescribed by Dr’s aren’t taken as intended. Patient’s often have other priorities which sometimes if your paradigm is MEDICINE MEDICINE MEDICINE – can be overlooked or misunderstood. If you overlook what is truly important to a patient, they are far less likely to think what you are advising is relevant to them. In my experience.
There is also more public speaking involved in being a Doctor than you would initially imagine. Ward rounds, MDT meetings, practice meetings, presentations, even just speaking to multiple concerned family members at the same time. I’ll never forget as a house officer, blowing my consultant away with my bog standard presentation (content wise) on infective endocarditis. A key element any Doctor needs in their arsenal is the ability to inspire confidence and lucky for me I’d spent hours upon hours working on my braggadocio style of rap, unaware of it’s unintended benefits.
I believe medicine is an art, with a rock solid scientific foundation. Being a rapper has helped me gain a better feel for the arts and helped take my practice to higher levels. Crazy right?