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'Ukulele Girl' doubles as Mayo Medical School student

Her mother said she could become a starving musician only if she also became a doctor.

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Her mother said she could become a starving musician only if she also became a doctor.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what she's doing.

"Hello. I'm Linda. I'm a medical student here. I also do this ...," Linda Drozdowicz tells a gathering crowd in the lower level of Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building.

She's holding a ukulele, preparing to play and sing to a crowd of about 75 that includes several patients and medical professionals. She stops here on Tuesdays around lunchtime, and tells the crowd that her music is available on YouTube as well.

Not for fame or fortune. This is an obligation she fulfills for her patients, she explains.

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"There are people who actually expect me to be there," she said. "I hope it does something for them. It's something I would want if I were a patient. It gives them some power, even if the power is only to choose the song they want."

Drozdowicz, a fourth-year Mayo Medical School student, considers herself sort of a whisk in the mixing bowl of her medical school class. She keeps things stirred up, and her ukulele playing fits that model.

"I'm kind of the class clown," she said. "So I don't think people were surprised when I started doing this."

Even through medical school, she makes time for friends, coffee shop visits, concerts — and her boyfriend, a comedian.

While her mother worries music would hurt her medical-school performance. Drozdowicz will not sacrifice it for medical school. After all, she has performed since she was 10.

She picked up the ukulele on a whim while vacationing in Hawaii with her parents the week before medical school. A nice memento of a more peaceful time, she said.

But she slowly learned to pluck the instrument and produce recognizable songs, and her roommates egged her on. Before long, she was playing the thing — and making a video about medical school. Her classmates now expect a YouTube video documenting their trials and tribulations at the end of each year.

Somewhere along the line, "some of the nurses caught wind that I was 'The Ukulele Girl,' " she said, and Drozdowicz began playing for individuals and groups at Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital and on the obstetrics ward. This led to memorable relationships with long-term patients, who now ask for her when they come back for return visits.

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Drozdowicz's goal is to specialize in child and adolescent psychology and palliative care, which focuses on relieving suffering for patients at all stages of illness.

In an article she wrote that appeared in a fall 2012 Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society publication, Drozdowicz describes her first nervous ukulele performance for a 10-year-old boy battling cancer, and her emotion-filled, surprised recognition of the youngster when he returns unannounced to one of her performances months later.

"He is taller, thicker, standing and smiling," she wrote.

That piece was published while she was still a third-year medical student.

Drozdowicz expects to continue playing after hours once she becomes a doctor, and her parents have accepted both of her life ambitions.

"I think they've come to love both their daughter, The Ukulele Girl, and their daughter, the medical student," she said.

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