Penn GynOnc Docs off the Clock: Rocking Out and Running Races in Support of Women’s Health

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Below are the stories of two Penn Medicine physicians who have found alternative ways to leverage their passions and hobbies into their professional missions to enhance their patients’ well being.

Our clinical and research teams at Penn Medicine have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of their patients and ending diseases.

In addition to caring for their patients, Penn physicians regularly publish research and peer-review articles, moderate panels, and present at medical society meetings, and we couldn’t be more proud of what they do professionally.

As any physician will tell you, this includes a lifetime commitment to many hours of work “off the clock.” That said, the personal missions of Penn’s providers don’t always end when the workweek comes to a close.

The examples of Robert A. Burger, MD, Director of Clinical Research and Fellowship Program in Gynecologic Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Robert L. Giuntoli, II, MD, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital, offer a case in point.

N.E.D.: A Rock Band of GynOnc Surgeons

Growing up, Dr. Robert Burger loved playing the electric bass, double bass and acoustic guitar. He continued playing seriously through his undergrad at Harvard. His biochemistry studies ultimately led him toward a successful career as a gynecologic oncologist.

But Dr. Burger never lost his passion for music.

Burger, Robert A., MD

Today, he continues to play bass guitar and is involved with studio production for N.E.D., a rock band composed of five gynecologic oncology surgeons from across the country.

In the clinic, the band’s members provide traditional medicine, but on stage, they provide a different type of support: inspiration, hope, excitement, and a sense of community for women facing a gynecological cancer diagnosis.

“When I chose medical school over music, I chose a path that would allow me to play music as an avocation and be able to serve people in a way that I thought would more likely be successful,” Dr. Burger told Philly Voice. "Being a part of N.E.D. allows me to combine the worlds of medicine and music, and to justify all the hours I spend working on my music.”

The band’s mission statement is clearly stated in their name: N.E.D., a chart acronym for No Evidence of Disease.

Initially, N.E.D got its start as a cover band to entertain colleagues at a medical conference. But the band members quickly saw the potential to reach patients in a different, powerful way.

While performing original songs with themes that support cancer support, education and research, N.E.D. has raised millions of dollars in the fight against gynecologic cancer in the past decade while selling out venues, and being covered in the New York Times.

The band managed to snag Melissa Etheridge as their opening act for an upcoming show/fundraiser, this year. Not bad for a rock band whose members are full-time academic and practicing physicians.

N.E.D. is currently working on their fourth album, and plays about 10 shows per year -- with all event revenue going to charities that fund clinical research, such as the Foundation for Women’s Cancer and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Racing Toward a Cure: Penn's "Together in Teal" Team

While Dr. Burger plays the bass, his colleague Dr. Robert L. Giuntoli stretches to run a race.

Giuntoli, Robert L., II, MDSince he joined Penn Medicine five years ago, Dr. Giuntoli has run and fundraised in the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) Philadelphia Run/Walk. Raising money for research and education about ovarian cancer, the event draws thousands of participants each year, include a dedicated team comprised of Penn's clinical staff.

“Penn formed a team that’s participated in the event each year to help our patients break the silence on ovarian cancer,” Dr. Giuntoli said. “I was honored to join. It’s incredible to be able to share with our patients the common purpose of educating the public.”

 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Philadelphia Run/Walk Image

Dr. Giuntoli is particularly proud to participate in the event since the missions of both Penn Medicine and the NOCC "overlap so perfectly," he explained. “Both Penn and NOCC are committed to improving outcomes in women with ovarian cancer and ultimately curing the disease.”

Because he runs alongside patients, Dr. Giuntoli enjoys meeting them outside of a clinical setting, without the predetermined roles of “provider” and “patient.” 

“I think it’s amazing to interact with our ovarian cancer patients on a common goal outside of medicine,” he said. “It’s great to see our patients and have them see us as real human beings rather than frozen in the role of patients or health care providers.”

Seeing his patients outside of the clinic has given Dr. Giuntoli a deeper awareness of his patients’ lives, and changed his perspective on how a cancer diagnosis affects their reality.

“I’ve gained a firsthand view of what’s at stake when we care for our patients,” he said. “They are so much more than just women with ovarian cancer. They’re mothers, daughters, and sisters who are vital to their families.”

As Drs. Burger and Giuntoli prove, Penn Medicine doesn’t stop at the clinic doors. Medicine can be a friendly chat at the finish line. It can be publishing groundbreaking research or using your talents to raise money for the eradication of a disease. It can be educating colleagues at a conference or writing a bass line for a song with a message about cancer.

At Penn Medicine, the only limit is our physicians’ creativity.

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The Penn Physician Blog is a resource for health care professionals featuring Penn Medicine physicians and their research, innovations, programs and events. 

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