February 28, 2012
By NANCY CHURNIN
Judith Ritchie unlocked her office at the Sammons Cancer Center and carefully gathered the instruments that she determined would best serve her patients in the oncology unit.
An American Indian flute. A plucked psaltery or lap harp.
Ritchie, a certified music practitioner on the staff of Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, fills doctors’ prescriptions to bring pain relief to patients with cancer. She studies their charts, searching their backgrounds and histories for clues to the sounds and rhythms that may relax them and, perhaps, reduce their need or dosage of pain-relieving medications.
Music, once dismissed by medical experts as a questionable alternative therapy, has evolved into a respected tool in integrative medicine programs in an increasing number of hospitals over the last decade. . .
Dr. Jeff Kendall, a clinical psychologist and associate professor in psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center, launched a music therapy program at UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center in September, working with Southern Methodist University music therapy students.
“When you treat the whole patient and not just the cancer, the cancer outcomes are better,” Kendall says, citing a 2008 Institute of Medicine report called “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient” that he credits for fueling the demand for music therapy in cancer wards in particular. . .
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