Musician as Physician #berklee #musictherapy


Musician as Physician: Interwoven Artistry for Complex Cancer Pain Management

Douglas E Brandoff, MD

Dr Brandoff opens with two vignettes; one where he describes a time of personal social frustration where he wanted to punch a wall (but played some classical piano instead – he demos it live!). His second example is a patient case (see slide).

As a palliative care expert and pain specialist, he gives us an overview of patient needs, in the context of his profession, and in the context of US healthcare. He considers opioids an important part of pain treatment, but acknowledges the rampant public health opioid crisis. We look at some disturbing stats of overdose deaths involving opioids in the US, correlated with heroin and fentanyl takeup, and a more local analysis of the picture here in Massachusetts.

His claims of the benefits of music on pain are nuanced and deeply-considered; music, he suggests, is part of the picture and has synergies with other treatments.

“Patients might be writhing in front of me. I can’t feel that pain, but every fiber of my being wants to help them”. Douglas E Brandoff

As a classical/chamber musician and a clinician/physician (but, as he wants to stress, not a music therapy specialist), Dr Brandoff tries to draw parallels between his subjective experience of music-making and his professional experience of treating patients. “When I’ve played… The Brahms Trio octave E, I’m flying solo, baby”.

Physicians themselves can be affected by stress, and 40-50% of the profession currently meet the criteria for burnout. His ‘common sense’ view is that music makes us feel better. At Dana-Farber, Dr Brandoff is advocating for more musicians and music therapists in his professional working environment. He shares some of his ideas for projects that he thinks would be beneficial (see slide).

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