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For MS Student Ivan Vegar—Music Producer and Aspiring Physician—Music is Medicine for the Soul

For Ivan Vegar—a student in Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Master of Science in Applied Life Sciences (MS) and Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) programs, aspiring physician, and music producer—music shares several parallels with medicine. 

“Every component plays a role in the grand scheme of things,” Vegar, MS ’24, said. “Outside of the actual composition of music, there’s the approach you take. Some people go into it with a book full of lyrics and then construct the song, while others listen to a rhythm and start improvising.”

Similarly, when it comes to studying medicine, he believes we all have different ways of learning. Some people are visual learners, while others are more tactile learners.

“What matters is choosing the best study method for you,” Vegar said.

As a child, Vegar would attend his grandfather’s church. Here, he was exposed to music that infused Latin genres such as Cumbia and Polka with church hymns.

He also enjoyed classic rock and began picking up different instruments, including the drums, the guitar, and the synthesizer. Eventually, he began engineering, recording, and producing music. He is primarily self-taught and has enjoyed the process of learning as he goes.

“I am always more than happy to engage with anyone who wants to talk music,” Vegar said. “Music is so accessible these days. The more people who understand music, the better because it’s a creative outlet. It is an expression of the soul.”

Vegar has always enjoyed learning how things work through a tactile, hands-on approach—he also likes working on automobiles—so surgery seems like a natural fit. Initially, he wanted to be a veterinarian.

“I loved animals as a kid,” Vegar said.

While interning at the local ER as a high school student, he gained exposure to the human side of medicine.

“Through my interactions with people in the hospital, I began to see how important medicine was for the patients and their families,” Vegar said. “There was something very beautiful about it, and I wanted to play a role in helping people form new memories—helping someone’s mother or child get better.”

He even got his first taste of surgery. A construction worker had cut his leg with a chainsaw, and the wound needed to be stapled back together.

“The doctor looked at me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to staple this guy’s leg?'” Vegar said.

Vegar was hesitant, but the doctor assured him it would be fine. The procedure succeeded, boosting Vegar’s confidence and giving him a newfound respect for modern medicine.

Vegar’s experiences as an intern led him to pursue medicine. He received his bachelor’s in Bio-Health from La Sierra University, and a master’s in Public Health from West Coast University in 2019.

Additionally, he worked as a Provider Transcriber for the Ears, Nose, & Throat (ENT) Surgery Clinic at Loma Linda University for four years—starting in 2018—which further cemented his desire to become a physician. He is moving closer to his goal as a first-year student in KGI’s MS and PPC programs.

He has enjoyed learning from all his professors and believes they all have something valuable to offer in their unique way. One professor who has mainly stood out is MS Program Director Dr. Anastasia Levitin

“I have had multiple classes with her, and she’s amazing,” Vegar said. “She’s really smart and funny. Those are great attributes to have when connecting with your students.”

He appreciates being at KGI as an older student.

“When I was an undergrad, I felt like I had all the time in the world and would procrastinate,” Vegar said.

“Now, I am approaching this program with a more mature mindset and a clear goal of what I want to learn and how to prepare for my future. I’ve also enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life. It’s put things in perspective for me.”

Over the years, he has had the opportunity to shadow physicians in many areas of medicine. Currently, the areas he is most drawn to are surgery and pediatrics.

“I think pediatrics has wonderful outcomes for children,” Vegar said. “While obviously, children are not the same as animals, it’s similar to veterinary care in that animals can’t always communicate what’s wrong, just like babies and young children. So as a doctor, you must figure it out on your own while also consoling the family because, understandably, parents are very concerned and protective of their children.”

Levitin has enjoyed working with Vegar and is optimistic about his future.

“The best part of my program director and instructor job is helping students reach their full potential,” Levitin said. “The MS program has a large and active pre-health student community. Our mission is to help these students develop a thirst for science and become health practitioners constantly seeking new medical knowledge to deliver patient care. With Ivan, my job is easy because he is mature and has a lot of grit. He is also personable, compassionate, and has what it takes to become a good physician-scientist.”