Dr Stephanie Yeap shares her journey of being both a medical doctor and an avid musician, and how one practice complements the other in her life.
What is your favourite post – call activity? For me, my best post-call moments would be spent singing at one of my favourite bars, under the starlit sky.
My journey as a singer-songwriter began when I was in junior college, having been part of the school's rock band co-curricular activity. Entering medical school, one of my biggest worries was not being able to play music as a working doctor, and hence with every opportunity to perform, my mantra was "this could be my last chance".
What initially began as little stints on stage as a Year 1 student grew into an exciting journey – including singing live on radio, playing for the President of Singapore and helming my own show on the grand Esplanade waterfront stage.
Perhaps the greatest joy, however, was marrying my love for music with my work in medicine. This manifested in reaching out to others through music, as well as writing songs about my experiences.
Connections through music
One of my most distinct memories was during my Year 4 psychiatry medicine posting in the Institute of Mental Health. We'd been assigned to the A&E where, as many of us know, patients with suicidal intent are often sent.
I was to clerk a young man who'd just come in – with a stoic face he revealed that he'd come from a strict family with high expectations for his career. He eventually caved and broke down, sharing that he'd been contemplating taking his life because his father threatened to disown him if he pursued what he loved: music.
As opposed to continuing the "nine-grid" history-taking template we'd been taught to administer, I paused and explained, "Actually, I'm a musician too." We then went on to discuss the struggles of being passionate about music, amid the pressures of more "traditional" priorities like good grades and a professional job. At the end, the patient appeared comforted and was encouraged to talk things out with his father. In that moment, it felt almost serendipitous.
Reaching out over distances
Writing original music has also allowed me to document my experiences in lyric and song, and connect with others. One amazing encounter I had was receiving an email from a listener in the US – she shared that her daughter, a competitive dancer, survived a harrowing bout of supraventricular tachycardia earlier that year.
Having chanced upon "Emergency Room" on Spotify, an original song I wrote about my grandfather, she was inspired to use it as her contemporary solo piece, relating it to her own experiences in the emergency room.
For one, it was incredible to realise that my music had reached somewhere so far away from home, but more importantly, it was heartening to know that my music connected to others' personal experiences and further inspired their expression of art.
Stephanie Yeap is a medical officer working SGH, and also a singer-songwriter in the local music scene under the moniker “Stephycube”. With the release of her album Most Of All (2019), she was highlighted as one of “Singapore’s Top Acts” on Spotify and on Apple Music’s “The A-List: Singapore Music
© Singapore Medical Association. Excerpt from article originally published in SMA News June 2021 issue.
Read full SMA article here (internet access required)https://sma.org.sg/news/year/2021/month/June/Music-and-Medicine-The-Arts-of-Healing
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