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Innovative Education

Singing Its Praises

Whether you’re an opera star or an elementary school teacher, the Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine treats those with voice difficulties

In 1996, Houston Methodist physician C. Richard Stasney, MD, was inspired to leverage a mutually beneficial relationship between Houston’s Texas Medical Center and Houston’s world-class arts and education communities. Premised on this unique opportunity, Stasney created the Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine (CPAM) with a mission to harness the power of the arts in the health-care environment. The center began as the first of its kind in the country, and, while other programs have since developed, the Houston Methodist CPAM program remains the largest in terms of the breadth of its programs.
Stasney’s interest in singing and musical drama began when he accompanied his mother to the opera as a child. Although his own vocal abilities did not earn him a spot on his prep school glee club, Stasney continued to indulge his passion for music. He pursued a career as an ear, nose and throat specialist, and became the primary physician for the Houston Grand Opera and other vocalists. After his retirement in 2016, Robert E. Jackson, MD, who holds the C. Richard Stasney MD, Distinguished Chair in Performing Arts Medicine, picked up the mantle of caring for Houston-area performing and visual artists. CPAM aims to serve as the international model for providing specialized medical education and clinical care to performing artists; effectively integrating the performing and visual arts into the hospital environment and conducting research designed to harness the broadest potential of the arts in therapy, rehabilitation and human performance. Starting as a health-care clinic for artists, CPAM has broadened its approach to five distinct areas of focus.
C. Richard Stasney MD, Distinguished Chair in Performing Arts Medicine
With more than 100 performances in public spaces annually, Houston Methodist is one of Houston’s most active performing arts venues. These performances, which include professional staff pianists who perform 365 days a year, consider the unique complexities of a hospital experience. The artists understand the audience is not there “for them” like in a traditional arts performance, rather they are using their music to best serve the needs of the hospital — in particular, reducing anxiety. The center provides specialized care for more than 400 artist-patients annually, including instrumental musicians, singers, dancers and visual artists. It is accessible to performing artists through a 24-hour call center that coordinates expedited access to a roster of more than 100 physicians at Houston Methodist. Volunteer musicians give their time to provide music therapy sessions. Music therapy is an evidence-based treatment that takes a clinical approach to music for reducing stress, improving mood and self-expression. Experiences may include listening, singing, playing instruments or composing music. Music therapists use music-based interventions to achieve clinical goals. They are part of the care team, and music therapists are found throughout the Houston Methodist system, including CVICU, NICU, in-patient behavioral health, cancer, bone marrow transplant and others. Music therapy may help patients with a variety of disorders, including cardiac conditions, depression, autism, substance abuse and Alzheimer’s disease. It can help to enhance memory, lower blood pressure, improve coping, reduce stress, improve self-esteem and more. Previous research demonstrates that music therapy can help stroke patients learn to communicate again through music using Melodic Intonation Therapy. CPAM also offers outlets in other artistic areas. Houston Methodist partners with Inprint, a literary arts nonprofit organization in Houston. Through this partnership, Houston Methodist employees are offered the opportunity to participate in creative writing workshops that engage readers and writers of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. CPAM also understands that employees are faced with unique challenges or stressors working in the health-care environment. Annually they offer more than 100 arts-based enrichment activities, including a Houston Methodist choir (which has performed at the Astros and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo), museum visits and interactive art-making experiences based on the needs of different units. CPAM also offers Houston Methodist employees opportunities to participate in other artistic workshops, such as photography classes and virtual craft projects. The center also has an employee choir, which performs for patients and employees in public areas such as Crain Garden. Other musicians perform throughout campus for the benefit of patients and employees, and visual art projects, often done by patients as part of therapy, are seen throughout buildings across the campus. In addition to the Houston Grand Opera, CPAM providers care for the artists of the Houston Symphony and Houston Ballet, as well as other performing artists from around the globe, while providing the same care to all the patients it serves.
Erin Graham, July 2022
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