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Some people keep journals. Dr. Stuart Bloom writes songs.

Bloom will sing them April 19-23 in "How to Avoid Burnout in 73 Minutes." The musical comedy at the Southern Theater covers how he came to be an actor/doctor and how a career shift helped him rebound from the lows of his work.

Active in theater at Golden Valley High School in the 1970s, Bloom studied at New York University and worked as an actor, including a role in the national tour of the "Doonesbury" musical that kicked off in 1984. But he didn't love it. Things shifted when he visited Minnesota after his father was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

"It was the first time anybody really close to me had been sick and that changes everything," said Bloom, whose wife, Carolyn, was reading a book about cancer at the time. "I looked at it and said, 'I should be an oncologist.' The truth was I'd had no pre-med classes. I hadn't had science since high school. But Carolyn said, 'I think you'd be a great one.'"

Which is how he ended up back in Brooklyn, taking inorganic chemistry and racking up debt by entering medical school at age 33. In between dissections, he was still writing songs. He continued during three years at Hennepin County Medical Center, where he whipped up an operetta, and later at Minnesota Oncology.

Bloom always loved his patients and his work. But after many years at Minnesota Oncology, the business side of medicine was bringing him down.

"Five years ago, I started looking at the songs and realizing, 'Hmm, there's an arc here,'" said Bloom, of Hopkins. "I thought, 'This could be a show.'"

Eventually "Burnout" came together, under the guidance of director Peter Moore. Bloom rented a theater for sold-out runs in 2019 and 2021, boosted by word-of-mouth in the medical community. Joined on stage by former journalist Eric Ringham as his inner voice, he has performed for doctors in Rochester, Minn., and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, his day job brightened with a new gig at the University of Minnesota, where he sees patients and teaches doctoring skills.

Students often ask about burnout, a subject he knows a little about. We asked Bloom six questions about his unique skill set:

Q: Is doctoring like performing?
A: If you see 18 patients in a day, it's not like 18 shows. But it is like 18 improv classes. You're acting with someone else.

Q: So, being a performer is useful as a doctor?
A: The things I learned in acting school were actually the same as being a doctor: Keep your heart open, go to places that are difficult, see life from another's perspective. If you do those things, that can make you a singular doctor. Or actor.

Q: Then, can being a doctor make you a better performer?
A: Yes. One thing I have struggled with is I'm not as adorable at 64 as I was at 34. Performers are always burdened with how they look but I'm breaking free of that — the thing being a doctor taught me is that we just are not alive for very long.

Q: So, is the show therapeutic?
A: Going through a crisis as a doctor, I wrote down the stuff I wanted someone to say to me. Now, that person says it to me every night I do the show. And it's always great to hear.

Q: You cast yourself as Stu Bloom, but does he differ from the guy playing him?
A: The first two iterations were written while I was burning out, so there was a lack of disconnect. The stuff happening at the clinic was so awful — deaths, things not going well — and then I'd get onstage and talk about deaths and things not going well. Now, I have less of that so I can have a little more distance. It's 98.3% me, but probably 1.7% is someone who has a little more perspective.

Q: Do you believe the show is more urgent now than ever?
A: Every health institution — Allina, Park Nicollet, HealthPartners — needs to make money and the truth is, if you're in it for profit, the business of trying to make money is to make money. The goals of doctors are to take care of patients and those two are often at odds, so what's happening now is everybody is leaving medicine. The latest data from the New England Journal [of Medicine] that just came out a few weeks ago are that something like 80% of the people who employ doctors feel there's a shortage and 90% feel there's a nursing shortage. So when I left Minnesota Oncology I could either have retired and become an old crank or I could go to the U and try to start figuring out what the problem is and become part of improving it. My particular something is I'm not nihilistic. I haven't become cynical. I'm still very optimistic about what we can all do.

'How to Avoid Burnout in 73 Minutes'

Who: By Stuart Bloom. Directed by Peter Moore.

When: 7 p.m. April 19-23.

Where: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av S., Mpls.

Tickets: $25,