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Healthy Balance

UVA Doctors at Play: A Neurosurgeon Unwinds with Music

Doctors at Play: February is National Heart Month, and throughout the month we’re profiling some UVA doctors who embrace activities that keep them healthy and young at heart.

Neurosurgeon Kenneth Liu, MD, began piano lessons at a young age. He really wanted to learn the guitar, but his parents wouldn’t let him. So when he was around 16, he started going over to a friend’s house to learn in secret.doctors at play: uva neurosurgeon kenneth liu playing guitar

He loved it. Years later, as a medical student at the University of Southern California, he joined two bands. They wrote and recorded original songs.

And yes, eventually, his parents found out about his covert hobby and were OK with it.

De-Stressing From Neurosurgery

These days, Liu is extremely busy. He performs almost 500 surgical procedures a year and is director of UVA’s neurovascular surgery program and co-director of the Stroke Center. He gets questions from potential patients from all over the world. He was recently featured in The Washington Post after successfully treating a 4-year-old’s brain condition.

He’s also married with two kids, ages 10 and 4.

But about once a week, he escapes to his garage and makes a lot of noise with his guitar. He’s especially into Metallica; his favorite songs are older tracks like “Battery” and “Master of Puppets.”

He lives next door to a farm, so “I can be loud, and it’s only the cows that hear me.”

Liu describes himself as an introvert and sees this as a way of hiding. “There’s something about playing the music that you love that it really does take you somewhere else.”

Anxious About Work?

Liu says standing in front of a “wall of sound” is restorative. “Our brains need to unwind somehow, whether it’s watching TV or taking a nap or sitting on the porch or playing guitar. It’s probably not super healthy to just go, go, go at work all the time.”

How do you unwind? Leave a comment below and tell us.

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