A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Pipe Dreams


Treating patients—and playing the organ—remotely.
As a boy, Robert Lambe, MD, loved to watch the organist play at his church in Concord, MA; the pedals and pipes made it so much more complex than the piano he played. Meanwhile he nurtured an ambition to follow the footsteps of his grandfather, a missionary doctor in China. “He was a family doctor, and I decided I would do the same,” Lambe says.

By the 1980s he’d achieved both dreams, when the young family physician joined Grace Episcopal Church in North Attleboro, MA, and was recruited to play the pipe organ.

“The previous organist gave me a few lessons,” Lambe says, but he mostly taught himself. COVID-19 changed both of his practices. A clinical assistant professor of family medicine and a primary care physician at a residential facility for adults with developmental disabilities, he used videoconference to supervise nurse practitioners and teach Doctoring to first-year students, and recorded music on his electronic organ at home for his church’s virtual services.

When church reopens, it won’t allow congregational singing, Lambe says. “Coronavirus spreads more efficiently when people sing,” he says.

“At the organ I’m not near anybody. I worry about everyone else.”

All in the Family
Lambe and his wife have four children and four grandchildren—including the infant twins of his daughter Jennifer Lambe ’06, PhD, associate professor of history at Brown.Physician Musicians
Lambe performs in the annual AMS Musciale with his colleagues and future doctors. “I’m struck by just how talented some of those medical students are,” he says.

Artificial Organ
With church on Zoom, Lambe uses GarageBand to send tracks of himself playing hymns to choir members, who then overdub their voices.

Beyond the Usual Repertoire
“Bach and Buxtehude are my favorites, of course,” Lambe says, but he also plays Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Last year Brown gave Lambe a certificate acknowledging his three decades of teaching med students and family medicine residents. “I didn’t realize it had been that long,” he says.


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