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Medicine and Music: The EMC


Medicine and Music: The EMC

anna magnowska

Welcome to the first of our new series, where we explore the colliding worlds of medicine and music, and meet the MD's turning into MC's in order to educate, entertain and spark debate. 

We kick off with The EMC, otherwise known as Dr Chris Hahn, an Emergency Physician from Oakland, California. His catchy, intricate raps educate about diagnosing complex medical conditions such as cardiac tamponade, right heart strain, and pulmonary embolism through ultrasound techniques, and he recently won the The Essentials of Emergency Medicine 2015 conference fellowship, voted for by readers of popular Emergency Medicine blog EMCrit.

PRN spoke to The EMC to find out more about him and his work. 

PRN: Can you introduce yourself and tell me a little about where you work and your current job?

EMC: I’m currently one of the chief residents at Highland Hospital, which is the safety-net hospital in Oakland, CA. It’s an incredible place to train, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant and supportive people I’ve ever met. We turn no one away and we see a broad array of pathology. It’s been said that after training here, you’ll never say the phrase “I don’t know how to do that”.

PRN: When was ‘The EMC ‘ created?

EMC: I released a video called “Welcome to County”, which portrayed my experience working at a county hospital as a junior resident. This video sparked a lot of conversations about hip-hop with people around the hospital. I happened to be having one of these conversations with one of my attendings during an echocardiography course, and he joked that cardiologists would love to hear a nerdy rap about ultrasounds of the heart. I laughed and didn’t take him seriously, but then during my drive home a few hours later, I found myself rapping about cardiac tamponade and right heart strain, which ended up being my first two videos. The concept was born that day. I should add that I’m forever grateful to that attending, Arun Nagdev. He not only helped create the concept but also showed me how to  make the videos and has provided a ton of teaching and images along the way. He deserves a lot of credit.

PRN: What inspired you to teach specifically through rap music rather than rock/country for example?

EMC: Well, I guess rapping is just my thing. I’ve been doing it for a long time and strongly considered going into a career in music rather than medicine. If I did it through another genre, it would probably sound terrible. Also, I can’t sing.

PRN: Tell me about the creative process you go through when writing and producing one of your raps.

EMC: I basically come up with a concept, a rhyme scheme or a phrase, or someone mentions a word or a topic that I could use, and I just build off of it. The process usually involves freestyling out loud or in my head when I’m driving, taking a walk with my son or going for a run. I don’t write any of it down. I just run it through my head over and over until it’s right.

PRN: What has been the reaction to your work from people in the medical world?

EMC: Overall, it seems positive. Many people have reached out, and I’ve been able to connect with some of the greatest minds in Emergency Medicine. Even outside of EM, people have been really supportive. When I released a video about vaccines, our local health department posted it on their website and people from public health departments around the country distributed it and even put in on TV. That said, if people don’t like the material, they might just be polite and keep the criticism to themselves. 

PRN: Have you had any rappers comment on your work?

EMC: Only the great ZDoggMD, the trailblazer of blending music and medicine.

PRN: What are your thoughts on FOAMed (free open access medical education) and who do you admire from ‘the FOAMed universe?’

EMC: I think it’s wonderful. I love the rapid spread of information and the ability to hear thought leaders discuss topics that could influence my practice. The way people learn is changing. We are more on-the-go and technology-oriented. Our attention spans are limited, and we like having the ability to quickly communicate with people across the globe. The FOAMed world is aware of this, able to adapt and allows a forum for conversation. Traditional teaching methods have their place but they are falling way behind in comparison, in my opinion.

Who do I admire? Everyone. I recently made a list of FOAMed resources for our incoming interns and realized afterwards that the list was a lot to sift through for them. Too long to include here. Everyone has something to offer and it takes a lot of time, energy and courage to put out your own material. I must say though, I would be lying if I didn’t admit my bromance with Steve Smith and his ECG blog (unclear if the feeling is mutual). That guy is a genius, and as an ECG geek, I probably read his blog most consistently. In fact, I’m currently working on a subtle STEMI rap.

PRN: Do you perform live?

EMC: As much as I can. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I had the opportunity to perform at SMACC this year, which was an awesome experience. Besides that, we have small department gatherings where I try to perform on a semi-regular basis, including our weekly conference. I try to rap the summary of the all of my M&M presentations. I’m also available to do weddings and bar mitzvahs if any of your readers are interested.

PRN: Are there any other musical MDs you know of and could recommend?

EMC: Dr. Dre, of course. And ZDoggMD - brilliant, talented, hilarious, and super entertaining. True performer. Besides that, there are some amazing musicians that happen to be doctors but they don’t mix medicine into their material as far as I know. 

PRN: What next for you as a doctor and as the EMC?

EMC: I’m planning to move back to the east coast after I graduate next year and hope to land my dream job - just haven’t decided exactly what that is yet. As the EMC, as long as there is material to teach, I’ll just keep making songs and see where things go. I just love doing it. Whether it’s ultrasound techniques, public service announcements or QI projects for my department, there will always be something out there to discuss and have fun with. Hopefully people will keep learning from it.