Jason Alexander is chief resident of internal medicine and transitional year residency programs at MacNeal Hospital in Chicago. In this role, he helps manage the hospital’s residency programs, supervises clinical work, and also teaches and mentors current medical students. He attended Emory University for his undergraduate and medical school studies, and recently completed a three-year residency in internal medicine at the University of Chicago.
While there’s no direct correlation between his current job and music, Jason insists that AYWS played an important role in his career trajectory.
“Approaching medicine, I was actually concerned going into college about whether being a music major would hurt my chances of getting into medical school,” he says. “Looking back now, I realize how wrong I was to be worried about it.”
Jason believes the communications skills he learned through music have proved to be the most beneficial. “When I see patients in the hospital or in the clinic, I can tell you I am exceedingly unlikely to be thinking about organic chemistry (a class a loved!) or biochemistry,” he explains. “Instead, I’m trying to figure out how to communicate very complicated things to a patient that has no medical training whatsoever.”
“In music, you practice complex communication techniques constantly,” he continues. “When it came time to transition from the medical school classroom to seeing patients, this was natural for me.
AYWS helped keep music a part of my college experience and in essence better prepared me for medicine than any of the science courses that I took.”
From tackling some of the wind repertoire’s most challenging literature to making his radio debut on NPR’s “From the Top” with Christopher O’Riley, Jason views his experiences in AYWS as invaluable.
He fondly recalls a farewell speech Dr. Stewart gave to the ensemble right before his last AYWS concert, saying something to the effect of: “Take this moment in as much as you can. Some of you will continue to be involved in music, some of you will not; whatever you choose to do, this group of people you have been performing with this past year is going to be one of the most talented groups you will play with in your careers. Appreciate it, because these moments are special.”
Jason says he can’t say for sure if that’s exactly what he said, but it’s close enough and it has stuck with him. “I don’t think I was able to appreciate it as a senior in high school, and I’m not confident I could appreciate it while I was in college,” he says. “But looking back on my time in AYWS and my musical experiences now, I have a much greater appreciation for my time in the group. The type of music we were able to perform and the quality of the performances were amazing, sure. I have been a part of other ensembles that have played great literature, too. The thing that made AYWS so special was how much fun it was rehearsing and performing. Dr. Stewart helped shape that mentality, and it is something I will be forever grateful for.”