Elvis Francois, an orthopedic surgery resident in his third year, grew up singing in church choirs and a cappella groups. Now he spends his time training at Mayo Clinic and occasionally posting videos of himself singing around the hospital.
Look for lights from empty ORs or examination rooms in the background of his videos — for this doctor, music can also be medicine.
How do you balance your love of music and medicine?
Music is something I've always been passionate about, just from a very early age. My dad (is) tone-deaf, but he loves to sing, which is a great combination if you're around. Seeing his passion for music, that was something that my brother and I latched on to. So music is something that I have been passionate about from a very, very young age, and I just clung to it.
And medicine is something that I've always been equally passionate about, so recently I've just been finding ways to blend and marry the two. Recently, I've been saying — a good, quick way to describe it is "music is medicine." Music has such a medicinal quality, and it does so much to soothe just your overall sense of things. Just during the day, I'm usually singing to myself and people around me will comment on it.
Recently, patients are asking me to sing (and) I'll sing with them or just find ways to liven the spirit. Medicine, oftentimes, there's so much gravity in different people's lives and what they may be going through, and just finding ways to just put a smile on someone's face, with a little bit of music, I think, goes a long way. I've found that if it's a tough day or we're getting ready for a case in between ORs, I might sing some Justin Bieber just to get spirits up a little bit, and it'll be pretty funny, but you know, people will find that it helps with team-building and team morale, and it just has that quality to it, that it just brings people together.
If JB is music for the operating room, what are your other hospital go-tos?
I tend to like a lot of Frank Sinatra. You know, music from the '50s and '60s has such a quality of reminiscing and thinking about times past. But if I'm with a younger crowd, I may sing more modern pop songs, just with a flair or twist of jazz to it. A lot of Frank Sinatra, a lot of Nina Simone for the more experienced music crowd, and then just modern-day things that are on the radio now.
On that note, your Instagram cover of "Feeling Good" kind of blew up, didn't it? Why did that one resonate?
"I've been thinking about it … Most of the lyrics are kind of centered around you taking a step back and birds flying, there's a new sun in the sky, and taking in and appreciating what you're able to experience in your environment and with the people around you, and feeling good about those things.
Those are the songs that I tend to gravitate toward, things that make people feel a little better (and) focus on the positive things that are going on in their lives. I think that's the music that I find the most rewarding to sing and the most soothing — to lift myself up and the people around me.
Why make the jump from singing in the OR to singing on Instagram?
"I think the biggest thing I realized is that you can have that impact on people, you can put a smile on people's faces when they otherwise wouldn't be smiling, and I think being able to share that with people and being able to share that facet with medicine, was something I felt I could help with.
It was something that I'd always done with myself and coworkers, I just wanted to take the opportunity to share that light with a few more people.
Are you named for Elvis Presley, by any chance?
I am! This is an interesting story, actually. My mom was a huge Elvis fan, she's always, ever since I can remember, always had small Elvis dolls and random Elvis memorabilia around the house. Growing up, I finally asked her why she decided to name me Elvis, and originally, she was going to name me Gregory. But she had a dream two weeks before I was born that she was at an Elvis concert and her newborn baby was at the concert as well. So instead of Gregory, she decided to call me Elvis. Yeah, she was about as big of an Elvis fan as possible.