Physician orchestrates way to bring public health message to the masses using music

CHICAGO — He’s a devoted physician to his patients at Sinai Health System, Dr Benjamin Levy’s other passion is music. And during the COVD-19 pandemic, he’s orchestrated a way to bring the message of public health to his audience. 

“I’ve always been really passionate about music,” he said. “I started as a kid playing the piano and then the cello, and eventually I was a music major at the University of Virginia in college as well as being pre-med. And then I did a Fulbright fellowship in Paris. … So when I got to med school, I was trying to think of a way to team up my music interest with medicine and public health. At Emory, I started a national health education campaign called ‘Music Inspires Health.’ And we organized a rock and hip-hop tour around the country with a bunch of artists including Ingrid Michelson and Trey Songz.”

When we got to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was trying to think of a way to teach the public about COVID-19 prevention. I started a virtual concert series called ‘Concerts and Cocktails.’ The first concert was the first Saturday of May, and we’ve had a concert every Saturday since then. … The idea was to team up musicians nationally with doctors and nurses on the frontlines in order to give them a voice to teach the public about COVID-19 prevention.

Levy said he believes it helps give a voice to health care workers.

“We felt a lot of doctors and nurses weren’t being given the opportunity to work on public health strategies so we wanted to give them a voice,” he said. “So we worked with the doctors and nurses to record PSA’s that we show in between the music performances. And we feature music by rock, jazz, classical, hip hop and country musicians, as well as some Broadway music, too.”

We were trying to design a health education campaign that was entertaining and information that was presented in a non-judgmental way, but we use music as a way to capture peoples’ attention, but we don’t want to develop programs that are like a lecture, that are boring.

Levy said he hopes it helps remind people to still be careful.

“It’s not just in Chicago. It’s really nationally. A lot of people are becoming a little bit lax when they go out in public, and this is a great way to keep reminding them to wear a mask when they are in public,” he said. “And all the physicians and nurses that have given us feedback really wanted us to continue this series because it has been able to really broadcast all the important health information from a public health perspective.”

Levy recorded a TedTalk, at Wrigley Field and it will stream on Sunday. He’ll discuss spreading health education through music and how he draws inspiration from the groundbreaking work done by the rock band Queen and Elton John.