Music and Medicine
AMWA’s Music and Medicine Community
AMWA wishes to support the incorporation of music as an important and complementary therapeutic intervention in the practice of medicine. Music can be beneficial for an array of medical, neurologic, and psychiatric conditions. Music can help both providers and patients in myriad ways.
The blending of music into a physician’s practice might be achieved by being introduced in an aspiring physician’s training in medical school or residency. Educational and mentorship opportunities would help achieve this goal, which already exists in some medical schools.
The Music and Medicine Committee strives to encourage music as a therapeutic modality to all physicians. Performing arts and creative outlets for healthcare professionals and patients have the power to:
- Give the provider a creative outlet apart from or in combination with their identity as a physician
- Help the provider and patient connect on a different and meaningful therapeutic level
- Help the patient in considering music as a way to partly manage their condition
- Play a role in reducing physician burnout
As part of our committee efforts, we would like to feature providers and programs that bring together music and medicine. We aim to encourage providers to consider music to be “prescribed” in their practice, and to possibly arrange performances in their clinic or hospital for patients.
Enjoy a few of our recent projects:
- Physician Healers, Healthcare Heroes—A Video Story, a Medical Humanities collaboration that demonstrates the power of music as medicine.
- Our musical inspiration to “Put on Your Mask.” (Go to Gallery)
- A musical reminder of the importance of mammograms created as our way to draw attention during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (go to Gallery)
We invite all members of AMWA to join the committee, and we welcome feedback and ideas. We are eager to be your musical mentors in medicine and hope that you wish to become “AMWA music ambassadors!” Please feel free to contact the American Medical Women’s Association for guidance.
Founding members of AMWA’s Music and Medicine Committee,
Chair: Dr. Mary Rorro with thanks to former co-chair Dr. Tina Wang
Student Co-Chairs: Rebecca Hurwitz, Lori Horhor, Kyungie Sung, and Kayla Li
Dr. Rorro invites all members of AMWA and MWIA to join the Music and Medicine Committee and become “Music Ambassadors”.
Are you ready to bring together your medical talents and your creative gifts? Then come Join Us.
“Variations on a Theme”
by Karen Poirier-Brode, MD, AMWA Artist-in-Residence 2020-2021
For the Physician
Music in Medical Institutions and Medical Education
- Baylor College of Medicine Art and Music in Patient Care
- Columbia University Irving Medical Center P&S Musicians’ Guild
- David Geffen School of Medicine, Mindful Music Program
- Dalhousie University Medical Humanities-HEALS
- Harvard Medical School Arts and Humanities Initiative
- Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Music and Medicine Club
- Johns Hopkins Music as Medicine
- Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine
- Northwestern Medicine, Northwestern Medical Orchestra (NMO)
- Pritzker School of Medicine Pritzker Music Group
- Stanford Medicine Music Network
- University Hospitals Music and Medicine
- University of Pennsylvania, Creative Expression through Music
- Weill Cornell Medicine, Music and Medicine
(click to view video)
(click to view video)
(click to view video)
Physicians as Musicians
- Albert Einstein Symphony Orchestra (View video)
- Australian Doctors Orchestra (View video)
- Berlin Doctors Orchestra (View video)
- Central Line (View video)
- David White (View video)
- Detroit Medical Orchestra (View video)
- Doctor’s Orchestral Society of New York (View video)
- European Doctors Orchestra (View video)
- Dr. Elvis Francois and Dr. William Robinson (View video)
- James Robert Web (View video)
- Jefferson Chamber Orchestra
- Longwood Chorus
- Longwood Symphony Orchestra (View video)
- Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra (View video)
- Mary Rorro (View video)
- Medical Music Group: Chorale and Symphony Orchestra (View video)
- Mimi Lee (View video)
- National Medical Virtual Orchestra (View video)
- North American Medical Orchestra (View video)
- Orchester Symphonique des Médecins de France (View video)
- Orchestra of the Physicians of Barcelona (View video)
- Penn Med Symphony Orchestra (View video)
- Physician’s Chamber Orchestra of Taiwan (View video)
- Richard Kogan (View video)
- Rochester Medical Orchestra (View video)
- Suzie Brown (View video)
- Texas Medical Center Orchestra (View video)
- Voices Rock Medicine (View video)
- World Doctor’s Orchestra (View video)
- Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra (View video)
“Our musical training helps us to listen, not just hear, and to recognize that there is a song in every diagnosis.”
— Lisa Wong, MD (Scales to Scalpels)
For the Patient
Music as Therapy
“Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.”
— American Music Therapy Association
The American Music Therapy Association provides a series of fact sheets that discuss the use of music therapy among different populations.
In medicine, music therapy has been shown to be beneficial in the following situations:
- Recorded music greatly improved geriatric patients’ appropriate behavior, personal appearance, and orientation to reality (Riegler, 1980)
- Live guitar instruction significantly increased peer acceptance and group cohesiveness among female psychiatric patients when compared to a no-music condition. (Cassity, 1976)
Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Music therapy interventions may elicit joint attention (Kalas, 2012); enhance auditory processing, other sensory-motor, perceptual/motor, or gross/fine motor skills (LaGasse & Hardy, 2013); and identify and appropriately express emotions (Katagiri, 2009).
- Music may have a positive impact on pain and distress for children undergoing intravenous placement in pediatric emergency (Hartling et al., 2013).
- A review of recent literature reports that music therapy can be considered a safe and generally well-accepted intervention in pediatric health care to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life (Stegemann et al., 2019).
Weekly music therapy sessions improves pulmonary function and reduces hospitalizations per patient-year in pediatric asthma patients (Loewy et al., 2020)
Neonatal Intensive Care
- A study of 33 premature infants in the NICU who listened to the sung and spoken lullabies left the unit nearly 3 days sooner than their counterparts in the control group. (Coleman, 1994)
- 4 months of musical instrument training enhanced cognitive abilities relating to attention, processing speed, and motor function and psychological well-being in older adults (60-80 yrs old) (Seinfeld, 2013).
- Music interventions led to significant decrease in cortisol levels providing evidence that listening to music while resting in bed after open heart surgery leads to stress reduction. (Nilsson, 2009).
- Patients undergoing general anesthesia were more stable with calmer recovery and satisfaction rates following music intervention. (Kahloul et al, 2017).
In Hospital Waiting Rooms
- “Music Outreach in Healthcare Settings” is a class that was created out of a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Medical School and the School of Music in the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts. Music students play in clinic waiting rooms and the impact has been amazing. Read more HERE
- A 2016 systematic review concludes that music interventions may have a beneficial effect on anxiety and depression in people with cancer with small reductions in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure (Bradt et al., 2016)
- A study of 60 participants reports that three sessions of music therapy significantly reduced the anxiety levels of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (Latif et al., 2020)
- A study of 84 patients revealed that music therapy during palliative care was effective at promoting relaxation and led to significant reductions in fatigue (Warth et al., 2015).
Does music have an impact at the cellular level?
A small study from Ohio State University using different types of music suggested that sound might an effect on the growth of neoplastic and normal human cells in vitro (Sharma, 1996). Another study suggested that music may “alter cellular morpho-functional parameters…in cultured cells” (Lestard, 2016).
Bradt J, Dileo C, Magill L, Teague A. Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD006911.
Cassity, M.D. (1976). The influence of music therapy activity on peer acceptance, group cohesiveness, and interpersonal relationships of female psychiatric patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 13(2), 66-76
Coleman JM, Pratt RR, Stoddard, RA, Gerstmann D, & Abel H-H (1994). The effects of the male and female singing voices on selected physiological and behavioral measures of premature infants in the intensive care unity. IJAM 5(2): 4-11.
Hartling L, Newton AS, Liang Y, et al. (2013). Music to Reduce Pain and Distress in the Pediatric Emergency Department: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. ;167(9):826–835.
Kahloul, M., Mhamdi, S., Nakhli, M. S., Sfeyhi, A. N., Azzaza, M., Chaouch, A., & Naija, W. (2017). Effects of music therapy under general anesthesia in patients undergoing abdominal surgery. The Libyan journal of medicine, 12(1), 1260886.
Kalas, A. (2012). Joint attention responses of children with autism spectrum disorder to simple versus complex music. Journal of Music Therapy 49(4), 430-452.
Katagiri, J. (2009). The effect of background music and song texts on the emotional understanding of children with autism. Journal of Music Therapy, 46(1), 15-31.
LaGasse, A. B. & Hardy, M. W. (2013). Considering rhythm for sensorimotor regulation in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 31(1). 67-77.
Latif, A. I., Alhidayat, N. S., Putra, S. H., Erika, K. A., Ningrat, S., & Syahrul, S. (2020). Effectiveness of music therapy in reducing the level of anxiety among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Enfermeria Clinica, 30 Suppl 2, 304–307.
Lestard, Nathalia & Capella, Márcia. (2016). Exposure to Music Alters Cell Viability and Cell Motility of Human Nonauditory Cells in Culture. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016. 1-7. 10.1155/2016/6849473.
Loewy J, Goldsmith C, Deshpande S, Sun A, Harris J, van Es C, Ben- Zvi Z & Dahmer S (2020) Music therapy in pediatric asthma improves pulmonary function while reducing hospitalizations, Journal of Asthma.
Nilsson, U. The effect of music intervention in stress response to cardiac surgery in a randomized clinical trial. Heart & Lung, Volume 38, Issue 3, 2009, Pages 201-207.
Riegler, J. (1980). Comparison of a reality orientation program for geriatric patients with and without music. Journal of Music Therapy, 17(3), 26-3.
Seinfeld, S., Figueroa, H., Ortiz-Gil, J., & Sanchez-Vives, M. (2013). Effects of music learning and piano practice on cognitive function, mood and quality of life in older adults. Frontiers in Psychology.
Sharma HM, Kauffman EM, & Stephens RE (1996). Effect of different sounds on growth of human cancer cell lines in vitro. Altern Ther Clin Pract 3(4):25-32.
Stegemann, T., Geretsegger, M., Phan Quoc, E., Riedl, H., & Smetana, M. (2019). Music Therapy and Other Music-Based Interventions in Pediatric Health Care: An Overview. Medicines (Basel, Switzerland), 6(1), 25.
Warth, M., Keßler, J., Hillecke, T. K., & Bardenheuer, H. J. (2015). Music Therapy in Palliative Care. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 112(46), 788–794.
For the Musician
Performing Arts Medicine
Performing arts medicine is a subspecialty that grew from Occupational Medicine in the late 20th century. This field addresses injuries and the prevention of injuries in performing artists (musicians, dancers, actors, etc.)
A 1987 survey of musicians found that 82% of musicians experienced a medical problem, either physical or psychological with 76% of musicians having a medical problem that interfered with their work.
- Performing arts related injuries were first reported in Occupational Medicine literature and later in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Performing arts related medical issues range from pain in performance to neuro-muscular dysfunction or psychological problems related to performance.
- Performing arts medicine began to take an organizational shape in the 1980s, with the first annual symposium on the topic in 1983, at the request of the Aspen Music Festival. (Bronfonbrener, 2018)
- The Performing Arts Medicine Association was founded in 1988 (PAMA, 2018) and the first professional journal dedicated to Performing Arts Medicine was established in 1986 and titled Medical Problems in Performing Artists. (Pubmed indexing began in 2010).
- In 2015, the organization began to provide pre-conference certification courses for Performing Arts Medicine. To this day, however, no formal pathway exists for specialization.
“About”. Performing Arts Medicine Association. Performing Arts Medicine Association. Retrieved 20 Jun 2018.
“Alice Brandfonbrener, M.D.” Local Legends: Celebrating America’s Local Women Physicians. United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 20 Jun 2018.
Gallery of Music
Veteran’s Day 2022
VA News wrote a piece about Dr. Mary Rorro and her musical collaboration with 97 year old WWII Veteran Matteo Giammario, her former Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra conductor.
Listen to “Thank You, Veterans”
The Banner Yet Waves, Memorial Day 2022
“The Banner Yet Waves” is a song Dr. Mary Rorro composed for Memorial Day to honor and pay tribute to fallen soldiers, and also for any time.
“The Banner Yet Waves,” combines elements of The Pledge of Allegiance, The Star-Spangled Banner, and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The song commemorates those who served and sacrificed, honoring the flag and country.
Listen to “The Banner Yet Waves”
National Department of Veterans Affairs airing of “The Banner Yet Waves” on the C20 show
Meet the Moment GALA 2022
Dr. Mary Rorro is Chair of the Music and Medicine Committee and the Humanities Committee of the American Medical Women’s Association. She is a physician in the Department of Veterans Affairs, a musician, poet, writer, and songwriter. Her essay “The Greatest Gift” was recently included in the book “Becoming Doctors: 25 Years Later,” edited by Par Bolina, M.D., and a narrative and poem she penned regarding the cicada emergence was published in London’s Royal Entomological Society “Antenna” journal.
Dr. Rorro reconnected with her former Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra conductor, Dr. Matteo Giammario during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared inspirational songs that she composed with him. The songs are meant to provide comfort and inspiration to others during the pandemic and pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of our healthcare providers who answered the call to service and met the moment.
Maestro Giammario, now 96 years old and a World War II veteran, joined forces with his former student by composing the arrangement to Dr. Rorro’s melody and lyrics. Dr. Rorro, former orchestra student and physician caring for veterans and her veteran teacher conductor sought to honor our healthcare heroes through music. Their “Meet the Moment” Suite is comprised of three songs: “Answering the Call, Meet the Moment, and Always Look Toward Tomorrow.”
Their music accompanies a video of images of women healthcare providers including physicians and pre-medical students serving in their roles as women in medicine, demonstrating their courage and compassion in caring for patients during the pandemic and every day. The video also highlights the many talents of our committee members in art, photography, dance and music. Dr. Sydelle Ross, Cait Cavarocchi, Lori Horhor and Qiang Zhang sing on the track along with Dr. Rorro.
Dr. Gloria Bachmann is Director of the Rutgers University Medical School Women’s Health Institute and she and Dr. Rorro mentor student and fellow physicians to harness and share their creative works as Project Directors of the journal. Physicians and students from Dr. Rorro and Dr. Gloria Bachmann’s committees worked and contributed on this collaborative journal between the American Medical Women’s Association and Rutgers University Medical School Women’s Health Institute.
The video will feature photos and journal submissions across the humanities of talented members of the American Medical Women’s Association and Rutgers Women’s Health Institute. These submissions are part of the “Humanities and Healing: An Arts in Medicine Journal” inaugural edition that Drs. Rorro and Gloria Bachmann spearheaded and Lori Horhor, Cait Cavarocchi, Sofia Stitz, Jasmine Mortero, Emilia Milagros Reyes-Beltran and many other students and interns collaborated. The journal will be available at the AMWA Annual Meeting. Drs. Rorro and Giammario ‘s “Meet the Moment” Suite YouTube video and journal project will premiere at the American Medical Women’s Association GALA opening on Friday, March 25 at 8 PM.
Thank you, Veterans!
Originally performed at the National VA COVID in 20 (C20) show on November 9th, 2021:
Mary Rorro, D.O.
Chair, AMWA Music and Medicine Committee
Chair, AMWA Humanities Committee
“Meet the Moment”
Played at the National VA COVID in 20 (C20): Does Pulse Oximetry Discriminate Against Your Patients?
Listen to the recording (begins at 4:30)
Mary Rorro, D.O.
Chair, AMWA Music and Medicine Committee
Chair, AMWA Humanities Committees
A collection of songs related to the COVID-19 pandemic intended to deliver important public health messages through music.
This video is dedicated to all our healthcare heroes!
Special thanks and gratitude to Karen Poirier-Brode, M.D. CM, AMWA Artist in Residence, 2020-2021, who contributed her beautiful artistry and video direction. Dr. Poirier-Brode, along with singer and sound engineer Cait Cavarocchi and singer and photo coordinator Lori Horhor, were instrumental to the success of the video, as were talented singers Sydelle Ross, M.D., Vanessa Gehring and Christine Xu. Sincere appreciation to Magda Wojtara for our group collage photo.
Our video features photos contributed by members of the American Medical Women’s Association Music & Medicine community, AMWA Humanities communities, and AMWA and Medical Women’s International Association physicians and students from around the world.
“Get Your Mammogram Telegram”
Music and lyrics by Dr. Mary Rorro
Get your mammogram
get your mammogram
please don’t delay
message is to make
your screen today
Have a healthy plan
see your doctor and
then you can say
you got your mammogram today!
“Courage Is A Woman”
Music and lyrics by Sarah Partridge
On a cool September day in western Oregon,
I roamed a cemetery looking for her grave.
A modest marker bore her name,
And was hidden in the shade.
A shocking contrast to the legacy she’d made.
In a time that is alive only in history,
There is a girl who lives a life like you and me.
But her dreams reach far and wide.
She pursues them all with pride.
A loving doctor is the first life she would lead.
But there was more to come, so much more..
So many lives she lived and saved in scores.
There was love and joy and pain…
But she fought the fight and won the game.
While the politics of health lay in the voting man,
A woman’s say was not enough to make a change.
Her little boy had died in vain.
Empowered women seized the day.
Her coalitions marched ahead and paved the way.
Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League was hers to claim.
Free from cliques and class distinctions, meant for all.
Local grievances were aired.
Granting suffrage was impaired.
But in the end these acts of courage were absolved.
A major barrier to health was inequality.
The instability of life beyond our shores.
Refugees in need of care,
Disease and suffering everywhere.
Her social justice was an answer to the wars.
She lived her life forever challenging society.
Humanitarian for women of the world.
Her civic policies were bold,
A broader vision would unfold..
Nearly a century of change that still unfurls.
Last tag line after “But she fought the fight and won the game
…Tell our children to remember her name.”
Song about Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, commissioned by the American Medical Women’s Association.
Sarah Partridge has also composed an album and tour of musical portraits of Women in STEM titled “Portraits of Wisdom“.
Dr. Mary C. Rorro (composer)
Richard Walsh (arranger)
June 20, 2019
Doctors of the world, united
leaders of our dream, inspired
shining a bright light, we’re guiding
sharing our vision
we can heal the world
sharing our mission
we will heal the world
Commissioned by AMWA for the Centennial Congress of the Medical Women’s International Association.
- Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine (Wong)
- Music As Medicine: particularly in Parkinson’s (Bryan)
- Music and Medicine: Integrative Models in the Treatment of Pain (Mondanaro & Sara)
- From Musician to Physician: Why medical schools are recruiting for musical ability (Jackson, CBC News)
- Music and Medicine (Ofri)
- Music Teachers for Doctors (Ofri)
- Music and Medicine: Harnessing Discipline and Creativity (Wong, AMA J of Ethics)
- Musician Physicians: The Connection Between Music and Medicine (Novak, Making Music)
- Physicians-Musicians (Strohl, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine)
- The Power of Music in the Healthcare Setting (Wise, NEA Arts Magazine)
- Music Lessons: What Musicians Can Teach Doctors (and Other Health Professionals) (Davidoff, Annals of Int Med)