News & Research

The Surgeon’s Playlist

Katie Whitney and Katie Vloet

Winter 2022
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Listening to music at work is not uncommon. But what if your work is saving the life of the person on the operating table, and you’re the one holding a scalpel?

We caught up with a few surgeons at Michigan Medicine to find out what they listen to while doing their high-stakes jobs.

“I usually play ’90s hip-hop. Mostly gangster rap,” says Samir Gadepalli, M.D. (Fellowships 2009 and 2012), assistant professor of surgery. That might sound like a counterintuitive choice, but Gadepalli’s reasoning is all about patient safety. “It sets the mood for rebelliousness, because I want the people in the OR to question me and stop me if they see something they disagree with.”

Gifty Kwakye, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, is also a fan of hip-hop in the OR. She uses music streaming apps to listen to playlists such as “hip-hop barbeque,” “Whitney Houston radio,” and “girl power radio.”

Erika Newman, M.D. (Residency 2008), associate professor of surgery, swears by her Spotify playlist, which is currently at 476 songs. It’s an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, rap, jazz, and Motown that ranges from Beyoncé and Rihanna to Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder. “My playlist keeps me going,” she says. “I don’t operate without it.”

Valeria Valbuena, M.D., fifth-year general surgery resident, has a Spotify playlist of 198 songs. The list includes an array of artists and musical styles, with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny in heavy rotation. She recently asked for more ideas on Twitter from incoming general surgery interns because, she joked, “I wanna be a cool mom.”