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Meet The Unorthodocs: A Band of Clinicians Blowing Off Steam One Gig at a Time

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

In June 2020, we at Doximity asked our community to tell us about an unusual activity that helps them “blow off steam.” The winner was Daniel G. Washburn, PA, an orthopaedics PA in Alabama, and his notable pastime of playing in a rock band called the Unorthodocs. The Unorthodocs is composed of clinicians who all work in the same orthopaedics practice.

Virtually enjoy one of their sets here.

Doximity: Before we begin learning about the band you’re in, the Unorthodocs, I have a question. Reviewing your setlists, I see a lot of southern and classic rock, blues, and some country, but I didn’t see “Freebird.” Explain yourself.

Daniel G. Washburn, PA: Yeah, well, we certainly have it in the songbook! But being in Alabama, that one is pretty played out for us, you know? Besides, we still have some Skynyrd. And when someone inevitably yells for it at the end of a performance, we’ll break out part of it for an encore, maybe. They mostly want to just hear the end, anyway, you know?

Dox: So how did the band start?

DW: Well, right after I started working at The Orthopaedic Center, I got to talking with Mark Leberte, a trauma surgeon at our practice. He used to be a drummer in a rock and roll band in college back in the late 70s, early 80s. I played guitar in the 80s. Neither of us were playing much, and we decided to start jamming a little on the weekends in free studio space at a local guitar store. Next thing you know, people were joining us. Brian Scholl and Calame Sammons, who are spine surgeons. Keith Kunz, an NP. It was just a hobby. But seven months later we could do about 11 songs!

Then my wife came up to me. She said, “You know what? My best friend is visiting. We're gonna do a birthday party at a Mexican restaurant. You all should play.”

Over 200 people showed up — including a lot of friends and families from the practice — and the next thing you know we have a band. We’re getting booked. Last year, we were even a part of a local “Concerts in the Park” series, and we had a crowd of 4,000!

Dox: Wow! With that many people, you must have seen a patient or two in the crowd. How does that go?

DW: Oh, sure. At this point, the word is out. Whenever we play, all the nurses and doctors in the hospitals we work with come out, and a lot of our patients come out, too. It’s a great way to blow off steam with something different than we normally do with the stresses of medicine and taking care of people. It's been great, man.

Dox: It sounds like it builds esprit de corps, not just with the practice, but with your partners, too. You might not have started this as a marketing tool, but would you say it's kind of working that way a little bit? 

DW: Absolutely. Because I'll be out somewhere, see somebody, and they’ll say, “That's the guy I saw in the Unorthodocs!” We've gotten a lot of contacts, and we've done some networking through the band which has been really cool. We’ve even played at health care venues. A couple of really big Christmas parties at the Huntsville Hospital Surgery Center. And we perform at charity benefits. The one we performed at for Friedrichs ataxia was a really huge show. And we raised a lot of money for that.

Dox: How do you handle being on call? Has anyone had to do a gig while on call?

DW: Oh, yeah! Our keyboard player always complains that we keep booking gigs while he’s on call. So, we have to find someone else to cover for him in case he gets pulled out. But we’ve been able to have backups be from within the practice, too!

Dox: I'm curious, within the band, are there people who have more authority within the band than they do at the practice, and vice versa?

DW: Oh, absolutely. For instance, our bass player, he’s a spine surgeon. I’m a PA. But I have a lot more experience being in a rock and roll band than he does. So, he’s the boss at work. But in the band, I’m the boss. At band practice, he’s gotta do what I say ... well ... not really. And, you know, trading the leadership hat back and forth is a part of what’s really made our work relationship great.

Dox: How about music in the OR? Is that a thing for you all?

DW: Sometimes. Certain types of spine surgery, no way. Everybody’s got to concentrate, you know? But when we do we do a lighter case, we'll have some music. We pretty much stick to classic rock. Occasionally we'll stick a little country in there, just for something different. And sometimes we ask the patient what they'd like to listen to. We’ve listened to everything from Billie Eilish to the Arctic Monkeys. Sometimes we do a little bit more nineties stuff. We do some Three Doors Down. Kryptonite. That kind of stuff.

Dox: When's the next concert?

DW: You know, venues are calling us. They want us back! But we have to be careful, being health care providers. Because when we play, we don't want to bring 600 people together and then have a big spike in COVID-19. You know what I mean? So we're kind of waiting until all this blows over and settles down a little more. Maybe a small Christmas party or something, but my guess is it'll probably be February or March before we play another big show. Hopefully, COVID-19 will be subbed down.

Dox: Have you written any original songs?

DW: Not really. But for an office party we did a HIPAA song. We rewrote “That's What I Like About You.” Changed all the words up to “We Don't Talk About You.”

Maybe we’ll do an arrangement of “My Sharona” changed to “My Corona” to open our next gig.

The Unorthodocs members include the following:

Mark Leberte: Ortho-Trauma Surgeon, Drums

Calame Sammons: Spine surgeon, Keyboards

Bryan Scholl: Spine surgeon, Bass Guitar

Greg Washburn: PA-C, Lead and rhythm guitar

Keith Kunz: CRNP, Lead and rhythm guitar

Rachael Dubrocca: Surgical Technologist, Vocals

Valerie Campbell: CRNA, Vocals

David Kyle: Foot/Ankle Surgeon, Vocals

Listen to a sample setlist on Doximity’s Spotify channel.

This interview was conducted by Karl U. Bucus, Clinical Content Editor.

Image by The Unorthodocs

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