Oncologist Stephan Sahm combines music and medicine
EYou often have to slow down so you don’t run whistling across the hallway or down the stairs. Maybe Stephan Sahm should do that – most of his patients should know anyway that the professor in the white coat, which, a cliché typical of the profession, contains a stethoscope, has a second passion. On his ward in Offenbach’s Ketteler Hospital, Sahm looks after people whose lives are limited by cancer of the stomach and intestines, many of them as palliative care patients. Every day he has to do with the finiteness of human life – and also with the limitations of what doctors can do.
That had an early impact on the doctor, who turned 64 in January, also through his experiences as a young doctor in pediatric oncology. A job can hardly get any closer than the death of a very young patient. But it is precisely there that there are always healing successes that almost look like miracles. For what lies so closely together in his medical profession, Sahm has on the one hand his profession as a medical ethicist, who expresses himself pointedly as a guest author and discussant. “I’m too opinionated for some people,” he says. He also spoke up during the pandemic, for example in the discussion about a triage law.
Support of Offenbach’s cultural life
If society wanted someone to deal with ethics in medicine, something had to be said. In any case, Sahm does not see himself as a “moderator” of medical and social debates. Which, decades ago, also motivated him to write. To compensate for these questions of life and death, Sahm has music. Always. Which is why the doctor, medical ethicist, musician and composer all have equal status in his CV. There are many physicians who play music, but Sahm takes the matter extremely seriously, despite his love of whistling and singing.
He has trained as a church musician with the so-called C certificate, during his studies he earned some extra money by playing the organ at weddings and directing children’s choirs. Although, says the Catholic Sahm with a grin, the Protestant communities have always paid better. As a guitarist and singer, he gained a foothold in Catholic church music early on, with a band called Prophet and the new spiritual songs that shaped an entire church movement, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
A pillar of Offenbach’s cultural life emerged from this, at least in name, the vocal ensemble Prophet, of which he is chairman. He never gave up composing hymns, singspiels and oratorios. It’s fun, like writing books, essays and guest articles for the FAZ.
Others played golf, says Sahm with a smile. Not that he would reject it – he just wants to say that even a demanding job still offers free time. And that’s where Sahm composes. Plays guitar and organ and sings with the vocal ensemble that won the city’s culture prize Offenbach was awarded and last year, funded by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt/Rhein-Main, among other things, was able to hold a large concert for the Beethoven year, which was belated due to the corona situation.