Music with Minnesotans: Dr. Victoria Elmer

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
October 26, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Dr. Victoria Elmer is a surgeon at Regions Hospital. She uses classical music while performing surgeries - partly to keep her patient calm and soothed, but also to help her staff stay focused.

Dr. Elmer tells me that having classical music playing in the OR is like having an old friend - a security blanket - available during difficult and potentially stressful times.

"We never know when a surgery will turn from routine to chaos."

Classical music in the OR is like a security blanket We never know when a surgery will turn from routine to chaos.
- Dr. Victoria Elmer

Music was always a part of her life growing up on a farm in rural Western Minnesota. After three years of piano lessons, Dr. Elmer branched out and kept learning to play by ear.

It wasn't until after nursing school and a decision to become a doctor that classical music really came into the forefront.

"I commuted 100 miles one way to a college in Moorhead to take the necessary requirements. That was when I started listening to MPR and classical music."

While some pieces like Bach and Chopin work beautifully in the OR - Elgar and Barber find their way into Dr. Elmer's private library for home listening.

Dr. Elmer says she wants to get her medical career established and then delve more fully into music. She's even begun studying cello and piano privately at MacPhail.

"In our field we consider it a bonus if we have an applicant who plays a musical instrument, it's a given that they will be focused, hard working, intelligent, have manual dexterity, good fine motor skills - necessary for surgery - and be a team player - also necessary in surgery!"

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