Doctors exploring how music benefits health

Doctors exploring how music benefits health

Doctors Fraser Rubens and Carol Wiebe are known for performing concerts for charitable causes around Ottawa.

They often perform for dementia patients at long-term care centres and retirement facilities. Wiebe is a pianist and Rubens is a classically trained tenor.

"We'll often have people that are sitting there and look completely closed off, not participating not speaking back to you. They'll hear this familiar piece — often it's Danny Boy ... their eyes light up, they start to sing," Wiebe told CBC's Ottawa Morning.

​Rubens and Wiebe co-founded Concert Docs, an organization of doctors with musical talents, in 2017.

On Tuesday they will give a lecture and performance on how music benefits health, as part Music and Beyond — an annual classical music festival held in Ottawa.

Musical benefits

"Participating in music doesn't actually require a lot of brain power, but it activates all parts of your brain, and you see that with people. Their emotions are there, they are able to move easier. People who can't walk can dance," Wiebe said.

Rubens — a cardiac surgeon — said there are studies that show benefits for patients who listen to music as they are being put to sleep for surgery and as they are waking up.

"In those situations they've shown benefit in terms of anxiety, in terms of pain control and in surrogate markers — what you measure in the blood for stress," Rubens told Ottawa Morning.

But music can help more than just patients, it can also help the doctors.

"If you can understand and sympathize with the situation of the characters you can transmit that to the audience," Rubens said, adding that he draws on that emotion when dealing with patients.

"We as doctors, when we hear the disastrous situations or the characterizations of the problems of a patient, we can empathize with what they're doing, and we can express back we understand what it is, and I think its the same form of communication."

The event is taking place at noon on Tuesday at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church.