Music also helps drive their work.
“You get the creative juices going in interpreting the [music], hearing the sound, always striving for a better and better sound that you create,” says Dr. Moss. “Just like as you’re taking care of patients, you always strive to be a better and better doctor. So this is an ongoing challenge.”
As Dr. Shapiro noted in founding the program, there is a deep connection between medicine and music, and the musicians say their participation in one enhances the other.
Hung and fellow students from the Music and Medicine program play at bedsides and in an infusion center for cancer patients, and they throw impromptu recitals for patients and their families at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“People say there are deep neurological connections about how music is deeply embedded inside the wiring of the brain,” Hung says. “I think of it more simply in that music makes people happy and they find comfort in it. During hard times of physical sickness,” he says of patients, “that sort of mental and emotional support through music makes a big difference.”
“My day-to-day or day-to-night job is very stressful, and working in the emergency room, you have to be ready for whatever emergency comes through the door,” says Dr. Vitberg. “And dealing with children is definitely a heightened level of stress. So music relaxes me, and there are some kids I can bond with because they play an instrument in their orchestra at school. … There is often music [playing] in the emergency room while I’m working.”
Dr. Moss cites a skill set that includes discipline, motivation, and commitment as the basis for success in both practicing medicine and playing music. “There is enjoyment in the creativity that you get at the end result with music, whereas using those skills, taking care of a patient, there’s satisfaction that you’ve helped another human being,” says Dr. Moss, an affiliate assistant professor of clinical urology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The program’s artistic director, Dr. Richard Kogan, is a psychiatrist and concert pianist who performs 50 lecture/performances a year in which he explores the connection between music and medicine.
“Music can soothe anxiety, reduce pain, and lift spirits,” says Dr. Kogan, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. “These are goals that all physicians strive for.”
Music and Medicine program manager Nancy Amigron concurs, adding that music is an invaluable component of recovery.
“Music is a healing art,” she says, “and helps patients respond in a medical setting. It lightens up everything — always.”
This article was originally published in December 2017