Surgeons add a new face to indie rock scene

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Four plastic and oral surgeons play gigs to raise money for charity

Randy Cohen/UCLA Health Employee News

From the left: Drs. Solomon Poyourow, Phuong Nguyen, Jason Roostaeian and Robert Kang.

Watch out Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins. Help the Doctor, an indie rock band made up of four surgeons moonlighting as hip musicians, is generating cutting-edge buzz.

A project that began as a much-needed release from their demanding careers has become a successful band, complete with a fan base, a sold-out performance at the House of Blues and gigs at the Troubadour, the Roxy, the Viper Room and the Dragonfly.

Dr. Jason Roostaeian, a plastic surgeon on staff at Reagan UCLA Medical Center, performs on bass and vocals alongside his colleagues and fellow plastic surgeons Dr. Robert Kang, with vocals and guitar, and Dr. Phuong Nguyen, adding lead vocals and guitar. Completing the fab four is oral surgeon Dr. Solomon Poyourow on drums.

UCLA plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Roostaeian

The four surgeons met during their residency training at the medical center in 2011 and discovered they shared a passion for music that started long before they became doctors. They had all played for different bands.

So they decided to put their talents to work to help raise funds for organizations like “Facing Forward,” which provides pro bono surgeries for children with severe facial and skull deformities. “Being able to create music together is the fun part, but now having the opportunity to help raise money for charities has made it truly special for us,” Roostaeian said.

The group decided to use the title, "Help the Doctor,” based on a common operating room experience, Roostaeian said in an email. “As surgeons, you would give each other flack if your assistant surgeon or nurses were not helping the way you saw fit.”

At first, the band members used aliases on stage — Jay Roost, Rip Towns, P. Danger and Sol Power.  “We wanted to separate our professional names from stage names because we feared it would give patients the wrong impression,” Roostaeian said. “However, at this point, most of our patients appreciate the fact that we perform and give to charity so we’d rather use our real names.”

Coordinating practice time for four busy doctors can be challenging. While Roostaeian works at UCLA, the others are in private practice, at City of Hope and at the University of Toronto temporarily doing a fellowship.

Typically, they squeeze in jam sessions when they can, usually after full days of surgery when everyone shows up in scrubs, said Kang. “It’s not easy, but the end product has been well worth it!” Roostaeian said.

For their next gigs, the UCLA plastic surgeon said they are looking at possible dates in late November. Meanwhile, fans, many of whom are UCLA doctors, nurses and staff, can listen to their music on the band’s and iTunes.

But don’t look for Help the Doctor to go on tour soon. “I wouldn’t call the band a second career,” said Roostaeian. “Plastic surgery is my career. Creating music is a passion of mine that I have always had, and I am just happy to be able to continue it, especially with such a great group of guys and for charity. It really doesn’t get any better.”

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