It's all in the song: Patients, music motivate doctor in life's work

October 1, 2009

David Kingsley, M.D., interacts with 60 to 70 patients a day at his bustling Kearney, Neb., general dermatology practice. He thrives, he says, because he loves the work and the people.

"The farmers and ranchers with skin cancer (are) typically stoic and have been around the block a few times. Fortunately, you can cure a lot of them.

"Then there are the teenagers with acne. They are truly grateful for what you can do," Dr. Kingsley says.

The countless stories by World War II veteran patients so inspired Dr. Kingsley that he not only listened intently, he also wrote about their struggles and commitment to the greater good for his newest compact disc (CD) titled "Believe It."

It is the second CD for Dr. Kingsley, who says he suppressed his love for making music until about five years ago, when he launched the acoustic band TREO ( http://www.treband.com/).

"Growing up in a conservative environment and going to college and internship and residency, I had to close that door for a while. It was just in the last five years that I opened that door and realized I was still in there," he says.

"Connecting to a patient is a lot like connecting to an audience. If you are sincere and passionate about what you do, patients and audiences can tell.

"Ultimately, I am a romantic - I try to see the bright side, the good in people, and try to give that to patients and to my music," Dr. Kingsley says.

Making music

TREO started out as a three-member acoustic group playing cover songs, and morphed, according to Dr. Kingsley, into a seven-piece blues and reggae band that plays its own tunes.

In summer 2009, TREO played its most impressive venue to date - live at the Rialto Theatre, Arnold, Neb., during the Arnold Blues Fest.

With no classical training, Dr. Kingsley says he sings and writes songs from the heart. He remains pure to the music of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. His musical icons are B.B. King, Bob Marley and Bonnie Raitt.

Lyrics of life

While many of his songs at least hint at his conservative views, some lyrics have spirituality as their source; one song on TREO's first CD is called "Guardian Angel."

"I believe in guardian angels - not only spiritual people we knew who are looking down on us, but also people here on earth who have that extra spirit who sort of help you through your day," he says. For Dr. Kingsley, one of those guardian angels in his own life was renowned dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, M.D., Ph.D.

"Tom Fitzpatrick was the one who told me that there is nothing like dermatology in medicine. The specialty really is an art," he says.

Dr. Kingsley, associate professor, department of dermatology, University of Nebraska, chose dermatology during an internal medicine rotation. In his third year in medical school, he traveled to Harvard Medical School for a month-long dermatology rotation with Dr. Fitzpatrick, and later went to the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., for additional time in the dermatology rotation.

Ten years into his solo practice, after 10 years with a group practice, Dr. Kingsley says he has hit his professional stride, in a practice that flourishes solely by word of mouth.

"I believe that if you treat people like people - honestly - they will beat a path to your door," he says.