Music in the Hawaiian OR…continued!


(See the previous post for the intro to this article.)

Eye-surgery patient Benjamin Semana went to sleep under anesthesia yesterday listening to Dr. Samuel Wong, the Honolulu Symphony’s outgoing music director, play Bach and Beethoven on an electric piano in the operating room.
Medical benefits of music
What: Pan-Pacific Conference on Music and HealingWho: Distinguished speakers and performersWhen: 2 to 6 p.m. tomorrow at the new John A. Burns School of Medicine at Kakaako, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall. Suggested donation: $100 per person.Sponsor: Dr. Samuel Wong’s Global Music Healing Institute
The unique, musical setup at the St. Francis Medical Center-Liliha is part of the hospital’s new Laser Tear Duct Center, which will be used for all kinds of eye surgery.
Wong, who is also an ophthalmologist, stopped playing to observe Dr. Jorge G. Camara perform laser surgery on Semana for a blocked tear duct. But the live piano performance continued with Dr. Arthur Harvey, University of Hawaii music professor and researcher, at the keyboard.
While Camara had help yesterday from guest musicians, he’s a classically trained pianist, as well as a surgeon, and he plans to play for patients while they undergo and awaken from anesthesia.
“I could hear it in the background,” Camara said after Semana’s operation. “It relaxed me. To have a live pianist is an awesome experience, and to have Dr. Wong by my side is incredible.”
The Laser Tear Duct Center was blessed yesterday by the Rev. Joe Specht, the hospital’s chaplain.

Music in the OR in Hawaii


I’ve written many times about my mentor, Dr. Arthur Harvey. He has been a believer of the power of music during surgery for a long, long time. Enjoy this article excerpt from the

Dr. Arthur Harvey played classical music on an electric piano at St. Francis Medical Center’s new Laser Tear Duct Center yesterday as Dr. Jorge Camara, in colorful hat, operated on patient Benjamin Semana’s blocked tear duct and Dr. Samuel Wong observed at right. Wong, the Honolulu Symphony’s outgoing music director, is also an ophthalmologist.

A Surgeon’s Heart Beats to Music and Medicine in N.J.


by Robert Wiener
NJJN Staff Writer
April 03, 2008
For much of his life — indeed, for all of this and much of the past century — Victor Parsonnet has stood at the center of Newark history, especially in the fields of medicine and music.
As a cardiac surgeon, he has been closely involved with such pioneering developments as the pacemaker, the transplant, and the artificial heart.
As a pianist and patron of the arts, he has until recently served as chair of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and contributed much to its attaining world-class status.
And as a third-generation member of the Parsonnet and Danzis families, he is heir to the tradition of quality medical care practiced by his grandfathers, the first Victor Parsonnet and Max Danzis.
Now, as he nears the age of 85, the chief of surgery at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is quick to acknowledge he is “the luckiest man alive.”
Late last year, when he stepped down as the chair of the NJSO, observers could be forgiven for assuming that he was at last ready for retirement. “I have not retired,” he insisted in a recent interview. “I am emeritus.”
Likewise, when it comes to medicine, he has no intention of stepping down. “I retired in July and unretired a week later. I love to work,” he said. “I love patient care, and I love research, and there is a lot to do. It is very important to me.”
He is willing, however, to take a look back on a career in medicine and the arts, even if a few of its chapters have yet to be written.
His grandfathers were principals in building “the Beth” in 1901. What began as a 21-bed facility on the corner of West Kinney and High streets is today a state-of-the-art medical center on Lyons Avenue that always made room for the Jewish and African-American physicians denied positions elsewhere.
Unlike so many other Jews of his era, the second Victor Parsonnet was born not at the Beth but at a summer home in Deal on the Jersey shore. But his boyhood addresses were in Newark — on High Street and Pomona Avenue — and he attended Maple Avenue School and Weequahic High School. He left Cornell University and entered the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II, and while in the service, he went to medical school at New York University.
There was never a doubt he would follow his father and grandfather into the “family business.”
“I was brought up in the Depression era,” he said, reminiscing at a round table in his office in the hospital. “People didn’t have much idea about branching out. All I knew was medicine.”
His grandfather’s fatal heart attack in a hospital laboratory helped Parsonnet decide on a medical specialty.
“I became interested in sudden death,” he said. It was a field just beginning to grow.
The right place
At the start of his career, Parsonnet said, “there was no such thing as heart surgery. There was no heart-lung machine. You couldn’t open the chest. The heart-lung pumps began around 1957. Heart surgery began as a specialty in the late 1950s. So I was lucky, I was in the right place at the right time for everything.”
At first, he operated on blood vessels. Then, seeking more training, he moved to Houston to study closely with two pioneers, Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley.
When Cooley performed the first successful human heart transplant in the United States in 1968 and implanted the first artificial heart a year later in Houston, Parsonnet said, “I never left his side. I scrubbed in with him on every case he did.”
When he returned to Newark, Parsonnet began sharing his knowledge and “sort of slid into” doing heart operations on his own.
To laypeople, few things seem more awesome and inspiring than a surgeon actually holding a patient’s heart. “But I am less concerned about that than about before and after surgery,” he said. “The operation itself is a treatment. The patient’s relationship with me is more telling, more emotional. It’s more important.”
But in 1985 when he performed his first transplant — the first ever done in New Jersey — “what was really exciting was holding someone else’s heart and putting it in this empty space.” After his first five transplants, however, “I didn’t want to keep doing it anymore. I did not want to be up all night, and I was interested in other things.”
So he shared his skills with others, helping the Beth become the seventh-busiest heart transplant center in the country and the only one in the state.
First pacemaker
He hit another milestone in 1961as the first surgeon in New Jersey to install a pacemaker, the internal device used to jolt a malfunctioning heart.

Parsonnet with the da Vinci surgical system, a robot that is used to insert probes through the abdomen or chest while a surgeon manipulates them from across the room. Photo courtesy Victor Parsonnet
“It was a big deal,” he recalled. “Opening a chest with a heart standing still and sewing the wires in and watching it beat was very exciting. We did 16 that first year.”
There are now 400 to 500 doctors installing pacemakers in New Jersey and two to three million worldwide, he estimated.

But it was a patient at the Beth, not a doctor, who designed the world’s first stents in 1987, installed in the groin area to detour blood flow around a patient’s blocked arteries. The inventor was an engineer named Dominic Wiktor, who was determined to find a less invasive procedure than the heart operation he had received.

Of course, progress in the years since then has been dramatic. Now, said Parsonnet, “a new era of diagnostic technology is just beginning. You can see organs inside in three dimensions.”

But Parsonnet said he predicts that the most promising developments will come from stem cells.

“It looks like they have something for Parkinson’s Disease that will lead to treating an infinite number of things, such as regrowing parts of organs, treating people with leukemia and other blood disorders, and replacing damaged cells with healthy ones.”

“But,” he sighed, “it is a political issue.”

Looking at the even broader issue of health care in America, Parsonnet had a speedy one-word diagnosis — “disaster.”

“We are nowhere near the best medical care in the world. We are far from the best mortality rate. Cuba has a lower mortality rate than we do. France, Germany, England are doing better than we are. I think it’s a disgrace.”

Weight of heredity

Along with politics, Parsonnet said he spends “lots of time thinking about religion in general” and feels “very strongly about being Jewish.”

“I am a secular Jew. My grandfather, Max Danzis, was a Jewish scholar. My grandparents were immigrants from Ukraine or Russia in shtetls that no longer exist. I have a heavy weight of heredity on my shoulders. My first wife, Mia, was a refugee from the Holocaust, so I have very strong emotional feelings about Jewish tradition — but I am not religious,” he explained.

Another family legacy is a love for classical music that started when he began studying piano as a child. He followed his father onto the NJSO board. Parsonnet served as chair when the symphony made its new home at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark in 1997, a milestone for an ensemble The New York Times has called “one of the country’s best regionals.”

As chair of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Victor Parsonnet enjoys a post-concert moment with famed violinist Isaac Stern. Photo courtesy Victor Parsonnet
“It is one of the most important things I have ever done,” said Parsonnet. “Music is part of me.”

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