Graduate combines medicine, magic for patients

Tom Kashiwagi, D.O., has been dabbling with magic tricks since he was a little kid, but it wasn’t until high school when he received one-on-one training with a magician in the Philippines that he fell in love with the craft.

“The thing I loved about it was the guy who trained me, Jun Suzuki, used the analogy that whatever you’re trying to accomplish and no matter the goal, magic allows you to look at things in different ways because you may have an idea of something, but there are so many ways to achieve it,” Kashiwagi said. “I use it as a metaphor in life. It’s the art of transformation and it reminds us that things are changing all the time.”

Kashiwagi moved to the U.S. when he was 18 years old from Japan. Magic performances were a way for him to make money, but he later traded in Las Vegas and New York shows for ones at hospitals. He continued to showcase his magic tricks throughout medical school, especially to entertain patients during his third- and fourth-year rotations.

“What I love about magic — especially with patients, who might be suffering from a terrible disease — is it will make people forget about the pain,” he said.

“People start smiling. It creates wonder and it’s such a beautiful art.”

The Class of 2018 graduate uses any prop he can get his sleight of hand on, whether that is a Rubik’s Cube, coin or deck of cards.

“With kids I use a different style of magic where I ask them what they want to be when they grow up and I incorporate magic tricks that might inspire kids to go toward their dream,” Kashiwagi said. “With an elderly population I started doing magic with a lot of puzzles. With stroke patients I’ve twisted balloons because it helps with their motor skills. I’ve used origami or card tricks and coin tricks for cancer patients when they’re receiving chemo.”

Kashiwagi said that sharing magic with patients has provided him with a purpose and more fulfilling medical school experience. It has been a way for him to combine his two passions in life, which he said is his advice to students just beginning medical school.

“This gave me a purpose. A lot of the doctors I have met have hobbies outside of medicine. I think that gives you a break. I would suggest for future students to find a hobby that they love and incorporate it in any way they can into their profession. There is no useless skill,” he said. “It’ll open more doors. It’ll make you unique. People definitely won’t forget you.”

During his time on WVSOM’s campus, Kashiwagi performed magic shows during the International Festival and Follies. He tested out new tricks for the school’s housekeeping crew and provided entertainment to classmates in order to ease tension before exams. He plans to continue providing entertainment to patients during his internal medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The trick he enjoys sharing the most with others is one he created about four years ago after working in a nephrology department at a pediatric hospital. He was talking to a child receiving dialysis who said he wished he could become a magician. That gave Kashiwagi the idea to start incorporating messages on the cards along with a person’s name. At the end of the trick, they are left with a souvenir.

“Some people who have seen me back in New York said they still have the card and it’s framed. Someone even used the trick to propose. To me, that’s the most rewarding thing. I’m always learning every day and there is always a new trick or concept, but that is my favorite trick to show people.”

Date Added: 
Wednesday, April 10, 2019