Medical Students Volunteer To Play Music For Patients

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — You’d expect to hear it in a concert hall, not in a hospital ward. Yet, among the beep of monitors at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital is the sound of music.

A group of volunteers providing a welcome distraction for patients.

“Yes, it is emotional to see how much we can make these patients’ lives better just by playing music. It’s not that big of a deal for me to come and play one or two songs, but I feel like it is a big deal for them,” said volunteer Audrey Kindsfather.

“Oh, we just love them, the patients seem to love them. It takes a little bit of the stress off of their hospitalization,” said nurse Janice Reiter.

In the dialysis unit, they have a larger audience. They also suit up and take their music to individual patient rooms.

Bob Clevenger, from Mount Lebanon, is having issues after a double lung transplant.

“I really thank you so much, guys. You’ve made my day. You really did. Fantastic, I love it. I feel so much better now,” he said.

It’s fitting these musicians are making people feel better, because while they’re volunteering at the hospital now, one day they could be working there as doctors.

They’re all medical students, who also happen to have a musical gift.

Student Sae Jang came up with the idea.

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“Music was always a huge part of my life,” she said. “And when I came to med school, that was the one thing that was missing in my life as a medical student.”

So, three and a half years ago, she combined her love of music and medicine and started a program called MusiCare.

Since then, it’s become a regular thing. A group of medical students play for patients every couple Saturdays, and it’s become clear music does make a difference.

Dr. Jane Schell helps the students connect with the right patients.

“We have patients who are anxious, hearing difficult diagnoses, and so having the students play can be calming,” she said.

Clevenger said the musical performances help him escape.

Clevenger: “Sort of lift you up and take you out of yourself a bit.”

KDKA’s David Highfield: “Is music medicine?”

Clevenger: “Oh yes. Definitely, for sure. For me anyhow.”

And the students believe this will help them be better doctors one day.

“I do I think it’s very easy to forget while we’re learning all this physiology and pathophysiology – that these are people,” said volunteer Pouya Joolharzadeh.

Playing a violin while wearing gloves is not easy.

Highfield: “Is it hard to play with the gloves?”

Joolharzadeh: “Yeah, its a bit like running with sandals.”

These patients face much more difficult obstacles. Which is why they’re a very grateful audience.

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