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Dr. Geoffrey Sewell

Dr. Geoffrey Sewell

Medical personnel, researchers and first responders are sacrificing their health and wellbeing every day for the safety of our community. And while their bravery rarely goes unnoticed, what the public may not see are the personal lives behind the heroes, the talents and passions that fuel their lives beyond the bounds of their professions. Talents and passions like music. Learn more about these community connections in our Summer 2020 Newsletter

As president and executive medical director of Hawaii Permanente Medical Group (HPMG), the state’s largest multispecialty group practice, Dr. Geoffrey Sewell holds a great deal of responsibility in the medical field. Yet amidst his numerous daily tasks, Dr. Sewell still finds time to serve a very special role for the HYS ohana as a member of our Board of Directors. Dr. Sewell came to HYS through his children, Elizabeth and Katie, both of whom played in YSI as violinists. “During their concerts, I was always amazed by the quality of musicianship demonstrated by the symphony,” Dr. Sewell recounted. “It’s been an honor to serve on the Board of Directors as we seek to celebrate and promote music and the arts in Hawaii.”

As an experienced physician, Dr. Sewell has always been fascinated by the impact music has on people’s health. From the positive response of babies in the womb listening to certain types of music to the use of music as an effective pain reducer to music as a powerful form of communication, the physical healing properties of music truly are numerous, which highlights the special connection between the study and practice of music and medicine. “Many physicians are able to tap into the same skills that led them to be exceptional musicians,” said Dr. Sewell. “These include certain traits such as attention to detail, precision, and physical dexterity.”

Elaborating on the unique connection between music and medicine, Dr. Sewell explained how medicine is both a science and an art. “Just as concert musicians must synchronize and harmoniously collaborate with others in the symphony, so too must physicians and providers in a group practice. The ability to play beautiful music together is something we experience in our medical group—when physicians from different specialties are able to work in concert to care for a patient with complex needs.”

When reflecting on this overwhelming challenge with COVID-19, Dr. Sewell sees the commonalities between music and medicine as more important now than ever before. “The best doctors are able to improvise when necessary, so in many ways, it’s a lot like jazz,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a whole new level of improvisation to our medical group and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. We’ve had to very quickly transform the way we practice medicine, with many more patient visits happening virtually these days.”

So how can people cope with the magnitude of the current COVID-19 situation? Like many medical practitioners, Dr. Sewell advises people to turn to music. “I’ve always felt that playing music helps us feel better, because it allows us to express ourselves and provides a way to expel tension and stress.”

“Just as concert musicians must synchronize and harmoniously collaborate with others in the symphony, so too must physicians and providers in a group practice. The ability to play beautiful music together is something we experience in our medical group—when physicians from different specialties are able to work in concert to care for a patient with complex needs.”