Rodolfo Gonzalez traveled the world playing and producing music before he came back to his roots in medicine.

A musician's new tune

Rodolfo Gonzalez traveled the world playing and producing music before he came back to his roots in medicine.
rodolfo gonzalez plays the guitar

RODOLFO GONZALEZ COMES from a family of physicians. His father is a cardiologist, his mother a pulmonologist. When his parents divorced, they married a gastroenterologist and a neonatologist, respectively. It was a natural starting point for a career in medicine.

Except for that fact that — until he was almost 30 years old — Gonzalez had no interest in medicine. He wanted a career in music. “I don’t know if I was rebellious. It was just more that (music) was something I wanted to do,” he said. 

A native of Venezuela, Gonzalez grew up playing guitar in bands. He began learning English from rock and heavy metal songs. At age 24, he earned a degree in computer engineer, thinking it might serve him well as a music producer.  

As Venezuela descended into political and social turmoil — he was mugged at gunpoint more than once, corrupt police stopped him repeatedly just to shake him down for money — he decided to leave for Spain, where he worked as a sound engineer and music producer. Through a mutual friend, he also met his future wife at a nightclub in Madrid. She happened to be from Indiana. 

“It was the most random encounter,” he said. 

BY THE TIME he was 28, they came back to Indiana. A year later were married. As he approached 30, Gonzalez began having some regrets about not going into medicine. “It was wishful thinking that I wish I would have done that,” he said. “But alas.” 

Living in Goshen, Indiana, he began to get to know the Hispanic community as a volunteer in a small clinic for underserved people, serving as a medical interpreter. So many members of the community were uninsured and trying to navigate a health care system across a language barrier. Gonzalez began translating for patients during their visits. Some of the doctors knew Spanish but didn’t know the culture. “It was all eye opening to me,” he said. “It sparked the idea that I want to be in this field.” 

He began work at a federally qualified health center, starting as an administrative assistant and becoming a clinical care coordinator. He stayed for seven years. 

rodolfo gonzalez shreds on a striped guitar in a black and white photo

Gonzalez was also working part time for a Los Angeles-based voice acting company. When they wanted him to work full time — as an engineer — he had to decide. If he was going to do medicine, this was the time. He decided to drop the audio engineering job to pursue premed classes. 

“I thought if I tried and I don’t succeed at least I tried and can say this was too much and move on,” he said. At IU South Bend, he took a biology class. And then a chemistry class. To add some degrees of difficulty, he and his wife bought a house and started a family.    

He did well and kept going but, with the jobs needed to support a family, it took more than five years to get the prerequisites done. “It was a gradual process of seeing how far I can go,” he said. “It wasn’t like tunnel vision that I was going to go to medical school no matter what.”  

Eventually, at age 35, he applied to and was accepted at IU School of Medicine. Now, 38, Gonzalez is entering his fourth year. In the fall he’ll begin applying for residencies. He’s considering neurology. “It’s been a long, long journey for me,” he said. Already, he’s accustomed to the question: Aren’t you getting into this a little late? For Gonzalez, it comes down to knowing himself.  

“I feel like taking on medical school when I was 22 or 23 would not have worked, he said. “I know myself in the sense that I preferred to do music then. I did very well — and I realized it was not fulfilling. I had to go through those stages to make sure it was the right stage for me.”

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Bobby King

Bobby King is the director of development and alumni communications in the Office of Gift Development. Before joining the IU School of Medicine in 2018, Bobby was a reporter with The Indianapolis Star. Before that he was a reporter for newspapers in Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.