There are opportunities to find purpose and a mission during times of crisis. Each one of us can answer a call to service in different ways. Find what resonates for you to make an impact. This can be a time of growth, reflection and transformation.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Rorro.
Mary Rorro, D.O., Chair of the American Medical Women’s Association Music and Medicine Committee, is a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in PTSD and is a musician, songwriter and poet included in the book “Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine,” written by Lisa Wong, M.D., as “The Violin Doc.”
Dr. Rorro was inducted into the National Italian American Hall of Fame in the same year with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and received the Bronze Medal of Saints Maurice and Lazarus for charitable works from the Royal Order of Savoy, Italy.
She won the International Planetree Patient-Centered Excellence and Innovation Award and is the recipient of a Jefferson Award, which is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious recognition program for volunteer public service, and the official recognition program of the United States Senate.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I told my parents I wanted to become a doctor at four years old “to help people.” My parents, grandparents and family enabled me to achieve my dream. My mother, Gilda Rorro, Ed.D. and late father Dr. Louis Rorro, taught me to give to others and share my gift of music. I graduated from Bryn Mawr College and received their first Performing Arts Prize, and completed my Psychiatry Residency at Harvard, where I was Chief Resident, followed by an Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a violist and songwriter, I blend music and the healing arts into my practice. The creative arts have the power to add a unique dimension to a patient’s treatment and create a special bond between doctor and patient.
Seeking to connect and network with women making their mark in medicine, I joined the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and was asked by their Executive Director Eliza Chin, M.D. to compose the theme song for their Centennial Gala celebration in New York in 2019. The resulting song, “Physicians Healers,” celebrates AMWA’s 100-year anniversary, and I am proud to be part of an organization that serves and supports women in medicine.
Many are moved by images of doctors, nurses, healthcare providers throughout the world who face major challenges in their duties during the pandemic. They are tackling this effort together, exceeding demands placed upon them, often through considerable sacrifice and at times, the ultimate sacrifice. Inspiring so many, placing themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of humanity–that is what heroes do.
Witnessing the impact the pandemic has had on healthcare workers, I wrote a song entitled “Healthcare Heroes,” to honor their ideals, courage and compassion as they treat patients with COVID-19, and to recognize their selflessness.
As Chair of the American Medical Women’s Association Music and Medicine committee, I strove to create the “Physicians Healers and Healthcare Heroes” video combining my two songs as a musical and artistic tribute to them.
The pandemic has compelled me to write songs with a musical public health message such as “Let’s All Wear Masks!,” “Mask Up! America,’’Power Through Prevention” and a jingle called “Get Your Mammogram” to encourage women to get mammograms and not to delay them in the era of COVID-19.
“Meet the Moment” is another inspirational piece for healthcare providers who have fulfilled their mission by meeting the moment in caring for patients both during the pandemic and always. It is also a song for anyone to aspire to “meet the moment” and shine their light to make a difference for others during this time in history.
My song “Light at the End of the Tunnel” pays homage to loved ones lost and represents collective grief during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as dealing with our divisions. This song addresses heartache and perseverance, and the message that struggles can be overcome. The song concludes on an hopeful note that a rainbow, which has been used as a symbol during the pandemic, shall rise again.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
1.We can be present to help those dealing with anxiety by actively reaching out and listening to their issues and concerns. Providing reliable support may make all the difference.
2.Let them know that they may not be stuck in this situation or any life situation indefinitely and that circumstances can change, without downplaying the severity or possible duration of the challenge. Returning to “life as we knew it” before the pandemic will not be the same, yet a future-oriented outlook may be cultivated.
3.Comfort those who are grieving the loss of loved ones and friends. If someone feels overwhelmed and is having difficulty coping, additional assistance is a phone call away through various help lines in which trained personnel will respond and provide guidance.
4.There is no weakness in seeking help, only strength. We need to improve our efforts to encourage others to access mental health treatment. Medication management and therapy can be life changing in patients’ journeys toward healing.
5.Music and the creative arts can be employed as a complement to traditional care. I recommend music prescriptions for patients to listen to music that helps them emotionally. I now connect with some patients through music when I play over the phone or video during virtual visits. Exercise, mindfulness meditation and tapping into spiritual foundations or beliefs can reduce stress. Reading, learning a new language and learning to play a musical instrument are beneficial.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
While we have experienced social isolation and fear in these uncertain times, we should look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Five reasons to be hopeful include:
1.We are resilient and have inner strength to overcome adversity. Remember to be grateful for all we do have, persevering with the belief that we can get through this together.
2.Many have risen to the challenge to help those in need during the pandemic. Find ways to volunteer to be a ‘helper” in your community. Show empathy and compassion to deepen connections and relationships.
3.Telehealth visits have opened the virtual door to the doctor’s office. The medical and scientific community have pooled their expertise and collaborated in global partnerships to explore new research, treatments and develop vaccines to combat COVID-19. Hope is on the horizon.
4.We have a responsibility to make small yet vital interventions that are in our grasp through social distancing, wearing masks and getting vaccinations. Let’s lift the spirits of our global healthcare heroes who make our health their priority, by doing our part. Innovative solutions are within reach. We have power through prevention, testing and vaccines.
5.There are opportunities to find purpose and a mission during times of crisis. Each one of us can answer a call to service in different ways. Find what resonates for you to make an impact. This can be a time of growth, reflection and transformation.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My extraordinary mother wrote her memoir “Gilda, Promise Me,” at 80 years old. Her book takes the reader on her journey as a world traveler, educator and administrator, and as Honorary Vice Consul of Italy. She is an exemplary role model and Renaissance woman who is respected and loved by all who know her. Most of all, she is my beautiful mother, graced with a caring heart and kind spirit, whom I treasure.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“Meaningful Musical Moments: Musical Thank You Notes for Healthcare Heroes.”
As in the video “Physicians Healers and Healthcare Heroes,” which appears on the American Medical Women’s Association website, my movement would expand and involve musical contributions from volunteer musicians and singers. Musical thank you “notes” would play for physicians, nurses and healthcare heroes who are guiding and shining a light for us during this pandemic and every day. For their service, we are eternally grateful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My high school graduation page featured a quote by romantic poet William Wordsworth, “The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more.” It speaks to the transcendent power of music, meant to be cherished and shared as a gift.