The Medical Musician Initiative was founded in 2018 to facilitate the continuing development of music performed by professional musicians in Critical Care Units.
The MMI story 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 was instrumental in saving the patient’s life over the next two days. The patient was Andrew Schulman - the physician was Dr. Marvin McMillen.
On the third day of the coma Schulman was still desperately ill and in a downward spiral. The efforts of his doctors and nurses were not saving him, diligent though they were. His 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, the St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach. 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, in January 2010, Schulman, a professional guitarist, now fully recovered, got permission from Dr. McMillen to return to the Surgical ICU with his guitar to play for critically ill patients. Over the next three years, working with Dr. McMillen and the SICU medical team, he developed the basic principles of 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 expression, 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.
This work has now expanded through summer workshops which began in July 2017. MMI workshop graduate Michael Bard is one of the first MMI success stories - in 2018 he joined the medical team at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. In 2021 another workshop graduate, Jenzi Silverman, has begun a medical musician program at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Andrew Schulman's book, Waking the Spirit: A Musician's Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul (Picador, 2016) is a world-wide release and as the blueprint for medical musicianship has given this work prominent notice in the field of critical care medicine.