The founding partnership of the Medical Musician Initiative - MMI - began in July 2009 when a patient arrived, clinically dead after major surgery, in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. The patient was resuscitated and put into a medically induced coma. The attending physician/ICU director was instrumental in saving the patient’s life over the next two days. The patient was Andrew Schulman - the physician was Dr. Marvin McMillen.
The founding event of the Medical Musician specialty happened on the third day of the coma. The patient was still desperately ill and in a downward spiral. Andrew’s wife, Wendy, had an epiphany that only music could save him. She got permission to insert the earbuds of his iPod so he could listen to his favorite music. As witnessed by the medical team, the music saved his life by stabilizing him and reversing the metabolic process that was killing him.
Six months later, Schulman, a professional guitarist, now fully recovered, got permission from McMillen to return to the Surgical ICU with his guitar to play for critically ill patients. From that beginning the two of them saw the possibilities and began the collaboration that would eventually lead to establishing the Medical Musician specialty: "A professional concert level musician with pertinent training in critical care medicine, who is a member of the medical team in a critical care unit".
The skill set of the medical musician is based on "META" - Musical ability, Empathy, Teamwork, and Assessment. The primary function of a medical musician in a critical care unit is to balance the brain. “Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music.” - Oliver Sacks.
Schulman and McMillen got other people interested in their work and began to teach and share what they'd learned. The first Medical Musician Workshop: Medicine for Musicians was presented at Berkshire Medical Center in July 2017. Workshop participants Eric Despard, guitarist (and member of the MMI Board), and David Jarvis, pianist, have begun Medical Musician internships at Berkshire Medical Center. Michael Bard, guitarist, has started a Medical Musician internship at the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2018 the workshop participants included the musicians of the Georgetown Lombardi Arts and Humanities Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, and musician/educational psychologist Jenzi Silverman of the University of Minnesota.
We are now planning the 2019 workshop and more events to further the medical musician specialty in the world of critical care medicine.