Music and Medicine

Medical Humanities
AMWA’s Music and Medicine Community

Share Your Music Join Us

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

Meet the Music & Medicine Committee

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

Voices of Rock
(click to view video)
Suzie Brown
(click to view video)
North American Medical Orchestra
(click to view video)

Physicians as Musicians


“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)

Palliative Care

  • 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.

Share Your Music

Submit Your Music for Consideration

Lisa Wong, MD

Listen on YouTube here.

Dr. Lisa Wong, Assistant Co-Director of the Harvard Arts and Humanities Initiative and AMWA Music and Medicine committee member, speaks about her innovative music program for COVID-19 patients at Boston Hope Hospital . Prescribing “music doses” for patients through various times of day, she and her team of volunteer musicians, bring the healing power of music to those in recovery from COVID-19. She also plays “Tomorrow” with her family, and features a hauntingly beautiful musical postcard by Silk Road artist Wu Tong.

Joselyn Mercado- Abadie, MD

Listen on Smule here.

Sydelle Ross, MD

Listen on YouTube here.

Dr. Sydelle Ross sings Mi Chiamano Mimi from the opera La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini. Dr. Ross is an award-winning classically trained vocalist who uses music in her practice of hospice and palliative medicine. She holds board certifications in anesthesiology, pain medicine and hospice and palliative medicine. Dr. Ross is the host of Prescriptions In Song, a podcast dedicated to promoting awareness of the healing potential of music.

Longwood Chamber Players

Listen on YouTube here.

Longwood Chamber Players is a group of healthcare professionals and medical students in Boston.

Tara Rajendran, MBBS, MFA

Listen on YouTube here.

Dr. Tara Rajendran, MBBS MFA, Physician-Musician, graduated out of the nation’s one of the 6 ‘Institutes of Eminences’ — ‘Manipal Academy of Higher Education,’ standing as the top 1.2 percentile of undergraduate students in the country (Top 15 national finalists) for the world’s most prestigious & expensive scholarships — The Rhodes scholarship ‘18 for her academic brilliance, outstanding extracurricular achievements, & leadership qualities. She was also the Oxford University DPhil Oncology program finalists ‘18. In 2020, ‘LinktheDots’ named Tara as one of the ‘20 brilliant Indians in their 20s’.

Dr. Rajendran’s academic focus is hematological malignancies and instrumental music therapy in palliative Oncology. She has received various research grants, including the Indian Council of Medical Research-STS, and has presented posters & abstracts at the professional oncology platforms, such as the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and ASH. Dr. Rajendran was the youngest invited speaker at the 27th International Conference of the Indian Association of Palliative Care. Tara is also the Co-PI of Music Therapy — Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) in the Oncology Department of Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore.

Tara was deemed as a child prodigy in the ‘Saraswati Veena,’ the national instrument of India. She maintains an unrivaled record of playing her signature style, ‘Tanam,’ a Carnatic musical improvisation. Recipient of several accolades & merit scholarships in the ‘Veena,’ Tara has given multiple invited performance at the prestigious national music festivals. Tara received the highest attainable award for Girl Guiding from the Hon. President of India in 2008 along with the proficiency badge, ‘Musician’. Her first All India Radio (The national public radio broadcaster) broadcast was in 2010. She also holds a bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Veena and is currently a Ph.D. student in Music (2019-2022).

Tara founded a self-initiative 1st lecture-concert series, ‘Oncology & Strings’ to advocate the importance of inculcating instrumental music therapy into India’s Palliative cancer care infrastructure. Launched at the Stanford University campus, Tara at the young age of 25, was invited to deliver lecture-concerts at TEDx, Kasturba Medical College-Manipal, & at India’s Premier cancer center since it’s the establishment — Tata Memorial Hospital (chief guest+Panel member). Alongside, Tara lends free MP3 ‘Veena’ recitals to Palliative centers across India & the United States.

Watch the All Together Now show, moderated by Bobbie Steinbach on Youtube

“Physicians Healers”

Music & lyrics by Dr. Mary Rorro

Listen to the recording

Doctors of the world, united
leaders of our dream, inspired
shining a bright light, we’re guiding
and transforming

Physicians, Healers
Women, Dreamers
sharing our vision
we can heal the world

Physicians, Healers
Women, Dreamers
sharing our mission
we will heal the world


“Courage Is A Woman”

Music and lyrics by Sarah Partridge

Listen to the recording

Words and music by Sarah Partridge.  Commissioned by the American Medical Women’s Association

On a cool September day in western Oregon,

I roamed a cemetary 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”.