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Otago’s "Singing Lecturer" inspires

Tuesday, 4 June 2013 9:54pm

SeanMacPherson singing lecturer image
Christchurch campus’ “Singing Lecturer” Dr Sean MacPherson, who uses songs to help his students remember information.

Haematology is not usually an inspirational subject, but Christchurch campus Senior Lecturer Dr Sean MacPherson turns subjects such as anaemia into catchy medical songs.

The haematologist composes songs for his lectures to help medical students remember what he is teaching.

“The songs are a mnemonic to help the students remember and stop my lectures from getting too boring,” he says.

"They were very interested to hear about my songs. I thought ‘Oh dear, I’ve only got three songs, if I get the job I better get composing.'"

The talented musician and ex-pat Scotsman uses the piano in the main Rolleston Lecture Theatre to perform his songs but has also employed a ukulele aka Billy Connelly style to get his message across.

Lectures cover topics such as anaemia, iron deficiency and exploding red cells.

Dr MacPherson came to work in Christchurch earlier this year as an Otago Senior Lecturer and Canterbury District Health Board consultant.

He first penned a song about blood thinner Warfarin for a lecture to colleagues about six years ago while working in England.

But when he applied for the job at the Christchurch campus, the mention of his medical song composition caught the employment panel’s attention.

“They were very interested to hear about my songs. I thought ‘Oh dear, I’ve only got three songs, if I get the job I better get composing.’”

Dr MacPherson has been a pianist since he was five and plays the trombone, guitar and mandolin.

He says his songs need to contain humour to be memorable, but he is careful not to be offensive as the subject matter, particularly conditions such as acute leukaemia are no laughing matter.

Dr MacPherson says students seem to enjoy the lectures but the proof will be in the pudding when exams marks show whether his music has made a difference to their memories.

Check him out: Dr MacPherson featured on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp on Tuesday night.
http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/singing-university-professor-video-5455608