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Music for our leadership ears

April 23, 2013
by H. Steven Moffic, MD
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In his comments, Dr. Richner was not only critical of the Pol Pot regime and its remnants still in the government, but also the USA. He makes it clear that he thinks the US bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War paved the way for Pol Pot. Not stated directly, but implied, is the sense that the USA should pay back for the destruction in one way or another. Although this is almost hard to believe, it is said that the USA government couldn't contribute funds to Kantha Bopha because the patients do not contribute anything to their care (see

Although Dr. Richner seems unique in our time, he reminded me of the legendary physician and musician, Albert Schweitzer, M.D., from the last century. As a medical missionary, he founded the Albert Schweitzer hospital in West Central Africa. He was also devoted to Bach, especially his organ music. Instead of blaming the USA, Dr. Schweitzer emphasized the guilt of the European colonizers. He posited a universal concept of ethics: reverence for life, or perhaps more accurately, to be in awe of the mystery of life.

Dr. Richner closed his concert lecture by saying what Cambodia needed now was forgiveness. He went on to play Kol Nidre, that song so often played on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Surely, we also need much forgiveness in the USA: for slavery, for the treatment of Native Americans, for inadequate mental healthcare, and more.

In our own lives as administrators, don't we have to ask for forgiveness for our own inevitable wrongdoings? I once had an administrator who derailed my career for his own personal gain. Twice he asked for forgiveness on Yom Kippur, the only times I saw him after his decision. Forgiveness was granted, but the full extent of forgiveness could not be obtained because he was no longer in a position of power to right some of his wrongs.

Cambodia and the USA are indeed in a position to ask for forgiveness and have the power to rectify some of their past harm.

Here is how Dr. Richner ties together his music, the hospital, and behavioral healthcare. He was interviewed in the liner notes to his compact musical disc, Beatocello in E-Moll.

Interviewer: On this CD you only play works in E minor. Why is that? Does it reflect your mood?

Dr. R.: E minor is a sad, solemn, almost grave key, but one which always dissolves into light and hope. And that precisely reflects our life here in war - and crisis - torn Cambodia . . . My work is performed in E minor.

Interviewer: E minor also for the mothers and children who come to your hospital?

Dr. R.: Yes, it is the same for the thousands of mothers with their children. They come to us for serious reasons, and they are sad. But once they are here, that mood disappears in most cases and the children are able to leave healthy and happy.



H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic, M.D. retired from the clinical practice of psychiatry and his tenured...

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