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Beyond the ward: The 'Pitch Perfect' doctor

Fourth-year medical student Philippa Massouh (Phil) has found a cappella singing a great hobby and change from her days studying to be a doctor. Although Phil grew up singing in choirs at school and took part in some musical theatre, she couldn’t find a space for the modern or pop music that suited her most – that was until she joined King’s all-female a cappella group The Rolling Tones.

A later start to medicine

A self-described ‘late starter’, Phil grew up in a house of doctors, but was slightly deterred from a career in medicine after fainting in hospital after her first day of work experience! After studying languages and a career in the City, the pull and love for medicine grew stronger and working hard in Chemistry night classes, six months of work experience and studying, she successfully secured a place at King’s at 27.


The Rolling Tones

During her first year, Phil looked at what opportunities King’s offered to those students who wanted to sing. She found, auditioned and became a member of The Rolling Tones.

The Tones started in 2007 and are made up of 11 female students who have gone on to have major success in the world of a cappella singing. During her time with the Tones, Phil and the group won two different national a cappella competitions. They also competed in the final of the International Competition of Collegiate a Capella (ICCA) in Broadway, New York City where they were the only all-female group.

"Singing in The Rolling Tones has meant I’ve travelled to Bahrain to sing in the International Youth Festival 2018 and I’ve also been on tour with the group to the West Coast of the USA to sing with different university groups in the States."

As the only medical student in the Tones, Phil found it a useful outlet and change from medicine, mixing with lots of different King’s students.

From a mental health perspective, I found hanging out with women who weren’t medical students really therapeutic as I could remove myself from that world – it became a creative outlet– Phil

Juggling singing and medicine

During her third year of medical school, Phil became President of the Tones. Certainly, a balancing act between competing and her studies, she sought support from King’s medical school.

I haven’t come across many singing medics. But I wouldn’t want someone to worry about the balance between studying medicine and singing. There is a lot of support from the medical school who encourage people to have a breadth of skills and not just be in the library the entire time– Phil

Although Phil has now officially “retired” from the Rolling Tones, she is still involved in advising the group and is very much their number 1 fan. She also hopes to continue singing alongside becoming a doctor.

"Being a ‘Tone’ was, and still is, a huge part of my identity and it really shaped my medical school experience. I found doing something I was passionate about while I am studying medicine very therapeutic and ultimately, I think will make me a better doctor."


Watch Phil and The Rolling Tones singing on YouTube.

The next Rolling Tones event is their Christmas concert on Saturday 30 November 2019 in the Great Hall, Strand Campus.

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