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AMWA Member Spotlight—Mary Rorro, DO

Mary Rorro, DO, celebrates medicine through music.

Dr. Rorro is chair of the AMWA Music and Medicine Committee

Mary Rorro is chair of the Music and Medicine Community, one of AMWA’s Medical Humanities. The impact of the pandemic on women in medicine inspired the creation of a video—Physicians Healers and Healthcare Heroes— to recognize the remarkable courage and compassion of physicians, nurses, and the many healthcare providers who are giving their service to others every day, and during the Covid-19 crisis.

How Have You Combined Your Love of Music with Medicine?

I wanted to connect with women physicians, and so I joined AMWA. I was approached to chair the music and medicine committee, which gave me an opportunity to pursue creative projects. Music and the arts have the power to add a unique dimension to our work as physicians and to create a special bond between doctor and patient. Through the Music and Medicine committee, I seek to encourage and mentor physicians and healthcare personnel to find ways to incorporate their music and the arts into their personal and professional lives.

I offered to perform for the gala in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This led to discussions with Eliza Chin, AMWA Executive Director, who invited me to compose a centennial theme song. The lyrics for Physicians Healers speak to the “doctors of the world, united,” as thousands of physicians from AMWA and the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) convened in New York to celebrate the longevity of the American Medical Women’s Association. Honored to compose music for this historic event, I reflected on the history of early women physicians and the achievements of this organization to promote women in medicine as the principle inspiration for the lyrics.

I drew upon the pioneering women leaders who yearned to break down barriers to pursue careers in medicine. By challenging the prevailing system that barred women’s entry, these first women in medicine paved the way for all of us. The lyrics “leaders of our dreams” refers to the impact of our founding female medical leaders, including Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and Ann Preston, MD, the first woman dean of the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia, and all the “doctor descendants” who have followed.

Inspired to Create an Original Song: Healthcare Heroes

Since the pandemic, we have been moved by the images of doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers in hard-hit Italy and throughout the world as they struggled to combat the novel SARs-CoV-2. Many essential frontline workers have faced considerable physical, psychological, and traumatic experiences in caring for patients during this time.

Yet, they are exceeding the demands placed on them, often through considerable sacrifice and at times, the ultimate sacrifice. They have inspired so many, placing themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of humanity as that is what heroes do.

So I was compelled to honor their remarkable courage and compassion, and adapted the lyrics to the melody of “Physicians Healers” to honor all healthcare providers through the song, “Healthcare Heroes.” This song is meant as a testament to the ideals of all “healers of the world,” working tirelessly both on frontlines and out of view.

Participation in the production of the “Physicians Healers and Healthcare Heroes” video was enthusiastic. Women physicians, nurses, and healthcare providers contributed photos from the US and abroad of women. Women now represent a significant percentage of the global healthcare workforce and are an integral part of the Covid-19 response.

Our video bridges the centuries by honoring the women in medicine from past generations as well as women physicians of our time. We are empowered to continue the enduring legacy of the leaders who came before us as we carry out the meaningful mission of all physician healers and healthcare heroes—guiding, healing, and transforming the lives of our patients.

Who Are Your Role Models?

I have had many medical role models including my father, three uncles, both of my grandparents, and my Aunt Mary. She was one of four women medical students in her class of 1958 to graduate from Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Through her hard work, she was promoted to chief medical officer for the US postal service of northern and central New Jersey.

I was honored to share the stage with my mother, Gilda Rorro, EdD, who was a beloved teacher. We were both awarded the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2018.  She has always been my guiding light.

My work with veterans is rewarding. My music and arts program for veterans, “A Few Good Notes,” has been featured on WQXR radio (the former radio station of the New York Times) and WNYC website, the Dr. Oz website, and AOL‘s Homepage for Heroes.”

Through the therapeutic music program, the guitar instruction group provides vets with guitars and lessons for the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System. I enjoy playing the viola with their group.

I have also written poetry based on themes of posttraumatic stress disorder and war that I share with patients to help them in their journey toward healing.

A Parting thought—

The AMWA Music and Medicine video bridges the centuries by honoring trailblazing women doctors from past generations in AMWA and MWIA, and women physicians of our time. We continue the enduring legacy of leaders who came before us as we carry out the inspiring and meaningful mission of all physician healers and healthcare heroes-transforming the lives of our patients.

I hope that the work of the Music and Medicine Committee will inspire all AMWA members.

Jodi Godfrey

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