Beyond Medicine

Life outside medicine: These DOs paint, play music and raise chickens

Learn how creative pursuits, yoga and culinary education help some DOs find work-life balance.


Anne Kennard, DO, has found similarities between teaching yoga and practicing as an osteopathic physician.

“They both require the same awareness of the intricacies of the body. Through gentle adjustments through osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) or fluid movements associated with yoga, the body is able to realign and heal itself,” Dr. Kennard said. “Being a DO helps me be a better yoga teacher and being a yoga teacher helps me be a better DO.”

Maintaining a well-balanced life outside of medicine is key to productivity within the profession, the DOs we spoke with say. Like Dr. Kennard, many DOs find that their outside passion replenishes their energy and gives them insights into medicine and patient care.

Anne Kennard, DO, is passionate about the integration of food and plants as medicine. She is currently training to become a clinical herbalist.

While in residency, she started teaching yoga to pregnant patients to help them relieve their physical and emotional stress.  These days, she’s a parent herself and conducts yoga clinics and teaches classes on healthy living and herbal medicine at a community college.

A member of the orchestra

Emergency medicine physician Jasper Yung, DO, started playing the violin in high school as a freshman but stopped playing for 18 years. After his residency, he started playing again. “I joined the Detroit Medical Orchestra, which gave me the opportunity to connect with the community and with music once again,” Dr. Yung says.

The DMO was founded in 2009 by a then second-year medical student, Michelle Ubels, MD, who was also a musical conservatory graduate. The orchestra includes physicians, residents, medical students and other members of the health care profession.

Jasper Yung, DO, is a member of the Detroit Medical Orchestra. "Music allows me to personalize being a physician," he says.

There are similarities between music and medicine, Dr. Yung says. “Both carry restorative properties integral in healing one’s self and one’s community,” he says.

For Dr. Yung, the greatest thing about being a violinist is being a part of something larger than himself. He loves that every note he plays serves to support the entire orchestra.

Fun on the farm

Before starting medical school, Valerie Staples, OMS IV, was a doula and childbirth educator. She’s always believed that relaxation helps to calm the mind, body, and spirit. For Staples, that relaxation comes in the form of animals and lots of them. On what she describes as a mini-farm, Staples has several chickens, a donkey, five goats, a lizard, several dogs and a cockatoo she calls Dr. Loki Skylizard. The animals help Staples channel positive energy after an otherwise stressful day.

Valerie Staples, OMS IV, has a cockatoo, among several other animals. She says that connecting with her animals helps her to build a rapport with patients.

Staples refers to her chickens as therapy chickens. “I love to go outside, hang my hammock in the yard, and watch the chickens chase each other around the yard and beg me for snacks,” Staples says. “They are very vocal, and they even sing a song when they lay an egg! I find it very relaxing just hanging out with them.”

The animals are not only personally satisfying but also a wonderful way to connect with patients, Staples said. “You’d be surprised how many people keep backyard chickens, and it doesn’t take long in a conversation to get them sharing about them,” Staples said.

“I had a patient on my medical mission in Honduras who had injured himself pretty badly repairing his chicken coop, and when I told him I had chickens too, he seemed to relax and enjoy talking about his chickens while I helped stitch him up.”

James Griffin, DO, started playing the bagpipes ten years ago. "I'm a musician who happens to be a physician," he says.

Bagpipe player

Ten years ago, James Griffin, DO, had never played a musical instrument nor read music. But his sister played the bagpipes and he was inspired to try it. Today, he’s a bagpipe player and member of a band.

“Music provides an outlet from the stresses and responsibilities of medical practice, which is very important to maintain resiliency against burnout,” Dr. Griffin says. “It is vitally important to have outside interests rather than identifying solely as a physician. Take an art class, travel, learn to dance or volunteer.”

Dr. Griffin is the founding member and president of South County Anesthesia Associates, LLC in Wakefield, Rhode Island. He says that both music and medicine require specialized skills, which one spends a lifetime refining.

Amanda Emmert, DO, is a first-year psychiatry resident. She teaches culinary classes for children and serves as a leader in a children's nursery, part of the children's ministry at her church.

“The challenges of learning music and practicing medicine can seem insurmountable at times, but with perseverance and methodical training, one continually moves closer to the elusive goal of mastering them,” he says.

Cooking with kids

Amanda Emmert, DO, is a first-year psychiatry resident at Creighton University. Her passion is helping children live healthier lives. In addition to teaching children about health and nutrition through cooking classes, she is also a teacher in a children’s ministry.

Retired cardiologist and professor, Gary Hoff, now spends more time in his art studio. "Medicine is an art and so is painting."

“Most of the synapses our brain makes are developed in the first two years of life,” Dr. Emmert says, “This is a really special population and it is so great watching how much they develop during that time. This impacts my medical pursuit because I get to spend time with the unique population that I will someday serve. I also get to experience interacting with families and understanding the family dynamic in each of their lives.”

Artistry in action

Retired cardiologist and professor, Gary Hoff, DO, has been painting since he was 13 years old. After retiring, he decided to pursue his love for art in his studio full time.

“Having an interest outside of medicine allows a physician to be a whole, balanced person,” he says.

Related reading:

How 2 DOs turned their passion for Broadway into producing a Tony Award-winning musical

Grey’s Anatomy, Seinfeld and DO tattoos: Top people culture and lifestyle stories

One comment

  1. Ann Hupe, DO

    I’ve lived on a small-flock farm, raised organic lamb meat, sold wool of all sorts of colors to my friends who were spinners, and bred/raised/trained border collies as sheep herders, companion dogs, and seizure dogs. As I’ve told my patients: “A girl’s gotta have a hobby.”

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