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The song of Ron Shorr

UF, VA researcher weaves music, other passions into medicine

Some might consider Ron Shorr, M.D., M.S., to be a jack-of-all-trades. He is the director of the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers, an epidemiologist on faculty at UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions and a musician.

Shorr took over the reins as the center’s director in 2007. Before coming to Gainesville, he worked at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. At the center, also called GRECC, he conducts aging research and provides the VA and UF Health with clinical help and educational outreach. Shorr’s job includes administrative work, research, innovation and teaching. GRECC allows him to see the connection of medicine, law and public policy while working to find ways to better care for aging populations, he said.

“It was ideally suited to me because it’s education, research and innovation all in one,” said Shorr, who also serves as the co-director of the training and professional development core at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which seeks to build a bridge between research findings and medical practice.

Shorr’s grandparents — who lived to be 95, 100 and 104, respectively — sparked his interest in aging. He understands that the aging population has special medical issues that need to be addressed and is working to find solutions that improve their care. For example, several of his studies have examined trends related to patient falls in the hospital and ways to prevent them.

“My curiosity wasn’t led to ‘What are biological problems?’” Shorr said. “My research is in trying to improve practice.”

Initially, however, he was torn between medicine and law. He applied to both law school and medical school because he was always interested in the links between the two fields, ultimately choosing to attend medical school at The Ohio State University. He was interested in things that didn’t quite exist yet, so made a niche in medicine for himself. That niche includes another passion of his — music.

Shorr worked as a radio DJ in college, but by the time he began his medical residency, his schedule became too irregular to continue. He also played guitar in an 11-piece band during his undergraduate years at Duke University.

“I’ve always had a passion for playing music,” Shorr said. “As I look at the next stage of my life, it’s something I want to do more of.”

Shorr, who plays the jazz guitar in a band called Bella Luna, has managed to interweave his love of music and medicine through his work. He sits on the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine board and his band used to play for patients. Bella Luna is currently in the process of going to the VA and starting a program similar to the Arts in Medicine program.

Shorr says his students are often surprised to see him playing in his band in the hospital, but he thinks it’s a good thing for them to see.

“It’s one thing to talk about well-roundedness, but it’s another thing to show them your human side,” he said.

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