Michael Gallant, M.D., has served as a pediatric plastic surgeon at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for 39 years. Many people associate the internationally recognized surgeon with the eye-catching bow ties he wears around the hospital. Yet others remember him from his presence in the hospital lobby–on the piano. While he is passionate about his job as a surgeon, who has performed life-changing surgeries on thousands of patients, he also loves spreading joy and comfort through music.
“My aunt was on the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in New York, and in those days, which are no longer, Julliard had a non-professional track for kids who didn’t anticipate making music their career,” Gallant explains.
Gallant auditioned and was accepted into the prestigious program when he was 9 and studied there every Saturday until he was 16 years old. His instrument of choice was the piano, which he continued playing in the years to come as he pursued a career as a doctor.
“My dad had a pretty serious mental illness and the only doctor that I saw as a kid was his psychiatrist, who was terrific,” Gallant says. “That was my motivation for going to medical school.”
After years of performing surgery, he also gets to practice music that impacts the patients, families, physicians and staff at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. It all started when the hospital moved to its new building and current location in 2010.
“In the old hospital, there was a piano in the lobby” Gallant says. “The problem was nobody ever went through the lobby and nobody ever used the piano.”
Now, the lobby sees a lot of traffic. From moving day on, it became a weekly tradition for Gallant to play songs on the piano when he has a free moment after lunch, between making rounds or at the end of the day.
“The best thing is when the little kids come by and a lot of times they’ll either stand there looking fascinated or they’ll sit down with me, which is what I really like,” Gallant says.
He often receives positive feedback from parents and can vividly remember one mom who stopped him in the elevator.
“She said, ‘We had a really bad day yesterday, and you really made me feel better,’” Gallant recalls.
It is moments like that that Gallant lives for–both in and out of the operating room.