Music is the Shorthand of Emotion

Author: Jaron Soulek, MD (University of Oklahoma)

“Music is the Shorthand of Emotion”


This phrase composed by Leo Tolstoy may not mean much for most people, but it surely does for the residents of University of Tennessee HSC in Nashville. With more emphasis being placed upon training residents in wellness and resiliency across the nation, the program leadership took advantage of their local “natural resource.” They hired a songwriter for a wellness activity.


This artist came to the program and spent several hours writing a song with the residents. A title was chosen and a chorus written, then residents broke into smaller groups to write verses. Note by note, they would arrange and rewrite. By the end of the day, a full song was prepared, which the artist then recorded and sent back to the program for their enjoyment.


Prior to the event, residents had mixed feelings about spending time writing a song. “There was admittedly a lot of apprehension when the email first came out… I can remember talking with the other residents and being worried about having to sing and perform in front of other people,” said Benjamin Rezny, DO. But those feelings dissipated when the artist played a few lines of a famous song he wrote, surprising the residents who quickly opened up and started having fun with it. Residents were soon relaxed, composing witty, fun, and humorous lyrics that eventually morphed into a more filtered and serious feeling song.


Resident wellness is a central part of the UT-Nashville EM program– it says so right on the front page of their website! While they do many of the mainstream wellness activities such as an intern welcome event, an annual resident retreat, and a resident wellness lecture series, they also have some more novel programs, including resident peer support group meetings, medical missions at home, and other frequent activities like the one detailed above. Zack Olson, MD, recalls a wellness-focused journal club held at an attending’s house. “There was very good discussion that occurred where attendings gave personal stories and anecdotes.”


Mary Jane Brown, MD, is an integral part of the wellness curriculum at this program. Olson states, “She is a true wellness champion. She is constantly trialing, fundraising, and asking for feedback. We are so lucky to have her.” This highlights the importance of a core faculty member becoming the wellness champion at their respective university. Should you be this champion?


“Wellness isn’t just going to the golf course” is a favorite line of the Chairman of my department, Bo Burns, DO. Being an avid golfer, at first I vehemently disagreed. But as I learned, I realize that resiliency training means providing resources that residents can employ when they inevitably have a hardship or face burnout. The songwriting activity does just that – it gives residents a creative outlet to decompress, whether from the daily grind of our profession or after a certain case did not go as planned.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s