Peter Grayson, MD, MSc, a tenure track investigator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program, Bethesda, Md., sometimes wonders how his life would have turned out if the band he was playing in during college had signed a recording contract with a major record label.
Dr. Grayson has been playing the piano or guitar and singing and writing songs for as long as he can remember. Since his father was a physician and his mother was an actress, he says there’s always been the duality of art and science in his family.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” says Dr. Grayson. “I was completing my internship when we met with [the label]. I was very busy at the time, and the recording contract never came to fruition.”
Many years later, Dr. Grayson has more curiosity than regrets. He now performs with the Affordable Rock ’n’ Roll Act, a band comprising NIH physicians, scientists and researchers who perform together regularly on and off campus at medical charity events, science conferences and private parties several times each year. He says the band is “pretty good” and is open to anyone at the NIH with musical ability, no matter how limited.
“My job as a researcher and physician is inherently as much art as it is science,” he says, adding that music and science are all about discipline. “I’m always fiddling around, doing research, writing papers and grants and, at the same time, writing songs and playing music.”
Dr. Grayson started taking piano lessons when he was 6 years old at the insistence of his mother. By the time he turned 12, he says, “I was sick of playing classical music and wanted to give it up.” But his mother offered a compromise. If he stuck with the lessons, she would buy him a bass guitar, and he could play in a rock and roll band.
“So that’s what I did,” says Dr. Grayson. “When I was about 12, I formed my first rock ’n roll band and have been playing ever since.”
He played in bands with two of his best friends throughout high school and college. The band recorded six albums and toured the country for several weeks, playing at parties, local clubs and bars—even when he wasn’t old enough to drink.
For some time, Dr, Grayson balanced music with medicine. He earned his medical degree in 2004 at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, and, over the next three years, completed an internship and residency at Boston University Medical Center (now BUSM or Boston University School of Medicine) in the Department of Medicine.
While at Boston University Medical Center, he served as a chief medical resident between 2007 and 2008, and then earned his Master of Science in epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health in 2011.
He returned to the medical center to complete his clinical research training fellowship in 2011 and also his rheumatology fellowship the following year. Then he served as a KL2 and Evans Scholar, bioinformatics, between 2012 and 2013.
In 2013, Dr. Grayson started a translational research program in vasculitis at the NIH.
“Along the way, I progressed through various titles to get to be on the tenure track” at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Bethesda, he says. “I became an assistant clinical investigator and just got promoted to the tenure track in 2018.”