It’s not uncommon for a new patient to arrive at the medical offices of Alan Schenk, MD, in Laguna Woods, Calif., and immediately ask him about his musical career. In addition to being a board-certified rheumatologist for the past 32 years, Dr. Schenk is also an accomplished acoustic jazz guitarist and mandolin player.
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Explore This IssueOctober 2016
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“I first took up guitar at the age of 8 on a whim, not to be outdone by a friend,” Dr. Schenk says. “My dad had an old, beat-up Harmony guitar, which was several inches wider than my arm span at the time, and a nightmare to play. Fortunately, I had a wonderful teacher—and a mother who enforced a practice schedule that made me a musician for life.”
While attending medical school at SUNY/Buffalo, Dr. Schenk found a way to pursue both his career and his love of music. He performed at the 1977 Buffalo Folk Festival, sharing the bill with folk singer Tom Paxton, and other noted musicians. Along the way he met other doctors and healthcare professionals who were simultaneously juggling musical careers with medical school.
“I had a mentor in medical school who was a rheumatologist, and I found the field to be so rewarding,” Dr. Schenk says. “After seeing how I could help someone with arthritis or gout manage their pain and in turn, reclaim their lives, I decided on rheumatology as a specialty field.”
After receiving his Doctor of Medicine from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine, and completing his internal medicine residency in Miami, Dr. Schenk relocated to Southern California to complete a rheumatology fellowship at the University of Irvine.
Music a Constant
Despite the changes that came with moving across the country, music remained a constant in Dr. Schenk’s life. He settled into private practice in Southern Orange County and quickly learned the area boasted a long list of outdoor music festivals.
“I met a physical therapist, who was also a drummer, when he would periodically drop by our office while on his marketing rounds,” Dr. Schenk says. “One day, he brought with him a fistful of musical charts. Intrigued, I was introduced to the local guitarist/architect who wrote them, and we formed a band called TimbreLine.”