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Dr. Philip Huang and the Healing Power of Music

The Dallas County Health Director on his passion for the trumpet, medicine, and bringing the two together.
By | |Portrait by Jonathan Zizzo
Brass Bond: Dr. Philip Huang has met many of his lifelong friends through music involvement.

Dallas County Director and health authority Dr. Philip Huang is used to having an overbooked schedule. For the last couple of years, he has guided Dallas through an unprecedented pandemic. Still, even before COVID-19, he was used to filling his time with his true passion: the trumpet.

Huang discovered his love for music while in school in Lake Highlands, where Eddie Green was the director of bands between 1962 and 1976 before directing college bands for more than 20 years. In middle school, Huang remembers being captivated by the high school band’s performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”

“They were one of the first high school bands ever to do something like that,” Huang says. “Lake Highlands band was transformational for me.”

As Huang pursued a medical career that would take him to Rice University, UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Harvard University, he never put down the trumpet. He put together a Christmas brass choir in college, playing carols around campus. Later, he formed and played in a Dixieland band during medical school and residency, entertaining his peers before exams.

When he was medical director for the city of Austin, he again formed a holiday brass choir, playing in the Children’s Hospital and even Austin City Hall. He also participated in numerous other ensembles and bands, including the Central Texas Medical Orchestra and the Austin Symphonic Band. These endeavors were great ways for him to bring his love of music and medicine together while serving the community. The pandemic paused his performances, but he has since reconnected with the Lake Highlands band as a booster. He has also been in touch with former bandmates, many of whom have kept up with music throughout their lives.

More recently, he has been looking to expand beyond the orchestral numbers to try jazz improvisation. He has sat back down at the piano and even bought a ukulele. In the chaotic world of public health, where you may never know what will come next, Huang says something about jazz improvisation makes sense.

During the pandemic, music has always had a dual purpose for Huang. It has allowed him to get through the stressful and heartbreaking news of reporting COVID-19 deaths but also brought about a vitality of its own. “It is an escape and a way to get away from all the other stuff,” he says. “Music also has its own way of healing. It’s amazing how music can generate so many emotions.”  


Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior editor for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…

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