"I decide what we'll do and how we'll interact with the music," Segev says, "and she decides what the picture will look like."

Innovative minds

A similar division of labor marks their medical collaborations: He poses the problem, she solves it and he trouble-shoots the result.

"What's unusual about Dorry and Sommer is that they're greater together than each is individually," says Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center and Segev's boss. "They're a combination that's tough to beat. They come up with very innovative approaches that make a huge difference in patients' lives."

In 2005, Segev was worrying about the roughly one-third of patients needing new kidneys who aren't medically compatible with a family member.

Sometimes, doctors find a second donor whose tissues don't match those of the intended recipient, but are compatible with those of the first patient — and vice-versa. A surgical round-robin then takes place in which both patients get kidneys from a stranger. But those exchanges, some of which involved a large group of patients and donors, were limited to surgeries performed in the same hospital.

"In 2005, I had a conversation with my boss in which I said how cool it would be if we could do this on a national level and have transplants done at multiple centers at the same time," Segev says. "But there were mathematical barriers.

"Dr. Montgomery said, 'The problem is that there would be too many people. You wouldn't know who to exchange with who.' "

When Gentry picked up Segev at work that day, he described the problem.

"Within a few months, we had put together an entire framework about how to do these transplants at the national level," Segev says. "It worked because Sommer and I come from different fields and have different skill sets, but we speak the same language."

Before Gentry and Segev devised their algorithm, perhaps 60 group exchanges occurred a year throughout the U.S. In 2011, there were 600. And in 2007, Congress modified a law to permit such swaps.

"Dorry and Sommer bring unique skills to decision-making and algorithmic thinking, an area that isn't well developed in medicine," Montgomery says. "Dorry knows what the point is. Sommer has tools and Dorry knows how to apply them in the real world. That's where the magic is."

Origin stories

When Dorry was 5, he and his parents emigrated to the U.S. from Haifa, Israel. In 1980, the family relocated from Ohio to the East Coast to further their son's musical training. Not only was Dorry a talented pianist, he had perfect pitch.

"Six months after we sold our home and moved to New York, I quit Juilliard," he says. "My parents still haven't forgiven me. I had gotten good, but I wanted to pursue other interests"

Not that he's forsaken music entirely. Segev still plays piano, plus guitar and violin. The couple frequently hosts musical get-togethers with friends.

In high school, Dorry started a company with his father that created software for medical offices. It was so successful that it paid for his education.

But Segev lost interest in writing code. That pattern is the downside to his drive, and it's one of the great frustrations of his life. He and Gentry will work like crazy to master a skill. But once they've succeeded, they grow bored.

As he puts it: "We sort of enjoy the progress part of the learning curve."

Segev hit upon a solution while in college. He started writing musicals for children and began performing in hospitals.