Musical doctors. The World Doctors Orchestra led by Dr Stefan Willich Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When scores of doctors from various parts the world meet at an overseas destination, it’s usually for a health conference, seminar or some such shop-talk event. On a few occasions, they also see patients, even operate on them. But as 75 eminent physicians from 15 countries prepare to come to Dubai this month, medicine isn’t exactly on their mind.

In what will be a regional first, the congregating doctors will perform, not surgeries, but magical music at a benefit concert at Dubai Opera on March 22. And their pièce de résistance? A classical rendering titled Positive Spirit, inspired by a poem of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Renowned cardiologist

The group is part of a full-fledged ensemble called the World Doctors Orchestra, founded by Professor Dr Stefan Willich, a renowned cardiologist from Berlin.

 Just for one night, the doctors will trade their stethescopes for musical instruments.”

 - Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama | CEO, Al Jalila Foundation

Dr Willich, who has served at the Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at the Charite Medical Centre in Berlin, is an equally accomplished musician. He has undergone formal training with the violin and chamber music and conducted orchestras in Stuttgart and Berlin, besides making a mark in other parts of the world.

“Medicine is closest to my brain whereas music is closest to my heart based on its overwhelming artistic and emotional power,” said Dr Willich. As it turns out, he isn’t the only one who can so adeptly combine the two vocations of medicine and music: the WDO has 1,200 members from 50 countries.

But just how did he find them all and what is the goal of WDO?

“I had met many doctors who are also passionate and experienced musicians in my career, so I founded the orchestra in 2007. The aim was to use the global language and emotion of music to support medical charity organisations. Three times a year, some 80 physicians from all over the world exchange their white coats for evening attire and perform a benefit concert for medical aid projects indicating global medical responsibility,” said Dr Willich. The orchestra has so far performed in about 20 countries on all continents except Australia, where a debut session will take place in 2021.

Given the logistic challenges, it’s not easy for the doctors to come together for rehearsals. But they have it all worked out.

Dr Stefan Willich is at his creative best when he is conducting an orchestra.

Dr Willich said the 75 participants in the Dubai concert come from 15 countries. “They were selected about a year ago depending on their availability and given the music material in advance to prepare individually. As an ensemble, we come together days before the concert and then work hard to practise.”

The rehearsals are usually followed by a pre-concert for patients and co-workers in hospitals or similar institutions, while the benefit concert is for the general public.


He said this time round, the pre-concert will be held on March 21 at the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital on whose invitation the WDO is visiting Dubai. Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said, “The doctors come from all over the world and just for one night they trade their stethescopes for musical instruments, and in unity they create a awe-inspiring symphony to spread goodwill. The harmony of medicine and music is a wonderful way to celebrate our fifth anniversary and the near completion of our research centre which promises to be a beacon of hope in the region.”

Giving details about the masterpiece Positive Spirit, Dr Willich said, “The composer Jonathan Barrett (director of Dubai Chamber Orchestra) has created this wonderful work and we look forward to performing it as the world premiere. We will ontinue with the wonderful violin concerto by Mendelssohn and conclude with the 5th Symphony by Beethoven. It will be a breathtaking show well suited for the new Dubai Opera. Music is always a dialogue with the audience and we look forward to this special constellation performing highlights of “western” music in this region.”

One of the UAE’s award-wonning violinists, Klaudia Olborska-Szymanska, will make a guest appearance in the concert.

The March 22 show is from 8 to 10pm. Ticket prices range from Dh250 to Dh950.