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New Research from University Hospitals Finds Music Therapy Can Improve Patient Knowledge of Sickle Cell Disease

News Release

George Stamatis | Sr. Media Relations Strategist
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
O: 216-844-3667 C: 216-346-9323

Unique music therapy intervention developed at UH Seidman Cancer Center tailored to patients

CLEVELAND – In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at University Hospitals (UH) found that music therapy interventions can improve patient knowledge of sickle cell disease (SCD) and ease transition of care for adolescents and young adults. The study investigated the effects of four culturally-tailored and developmentally appropriate music therapy sessions on self-efficacy, trust and SCD knowledge in thirty 18-23 year olds with SCD. This study was supported by the Kulas Foundation of Cleveland.

Samuel Rodgers-Melnick, MT-BC, music therapist at UH Seidman Cancer Center, developed the BEATS (Build, Educate, Advance, Transition, in Sickle cell disease) music therapy program to address the specific health challenges faced by adolescents and young adults with SCD as they transition from pediatric to adult care for their chronic condition.

“Music is a powerful tool that can convey health education, engage memory, increase patient engagement, and facilitate social support” says Rodgers-Melnick, the study’s principal investigator. “The study showed us that regular music therapy interventions can give patients a sense of empowerment that they can live well with their disease.”

Like other chronic illnesses, transitioning from pediatric to adult care for SCD can be challenging for patients and their families. With that in mind, a team of experts at UH Seidman Cancer Center developed the “Bridge Clinic”, a monthly multidisciplinary appointment that includes an adult hematologist, two certified nurse practitioners, and a dedicated registered nurse, social worker, music therapist and patient navigator. Each “Bridge Clinic” included an hour BEATS session with group drumming and engaging music therapy interventions that addressed topics including medication management, SCD pathophysiology, and pain management.

“Even in the US, children with SCD used to die from their disease before or during adolescence, as recently as 40 years ago. So transition to adult care is both a great achievement, and a time of great risk, for young adults with SCD.” says Jane Little, MD, Director of the Adult SCD Clinic at UH Seidman Cancer Center. “Work like Rodgers-Melnick’s demonstrates that a tailored form of education and therapy can help patients better manage their illness while, importantly, developing a trusting relationships with their care team.”

The study “The Effects of Music Therapy on Transition Outcomes in Adolescent and Young Adults with Sickle Cell Disease” is posted on the Web ahead of print in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health: 10.1515/ijamh-2017-0004

“After completing this study, we listened to the feedback from participants and made several improvements to the BEATS program. We are currently conducting a study of this improved BEATS program that will reach more patients and address additional topics in SCD health,” says Rodgers-Melnick. The adult SCD team at UH Seidman Cancer Center is also pursuing opportunities to help implement the BEATS program at other sickle cell centers around the country.

About University Hospitals
Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 18 hospitals, more than 40 outpatient health centers and 200 physician offices in 15 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, located on a 35-acre campus in Cleveland’s University Circle, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The main campus also includes University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, including cancer, pediatrics, women's health, orthopedics, radiology, neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, digestive health, transplantation and urology. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News & World Report. UH is also home to Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals – part of The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development. UH is the third largest employer in Northeast Ohio with more than 21,000 full-time employees. For more information, go to