Open invitation from Keith W. L. Rafal, MD, MPH

Published by International Association for Music and Medicine on

As a new member of the IAMM’s community and strong believer in the power of music to positively impact our health and wellbeing, I am looking for collaborators to work with me on an exciting new initiative that focuses on the role the expressive arts can play on developing new abilities and awareness after a significant physical trauma or a medical event.

By way of introduction I have been in the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for over 30 years and I am currently the Medical Director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island with primary clinical faculty appointment at Brown University and adjunct at Tufts University. Over the past 5 years I have been involved with an international patients stories project supported by the nonprofit that I founded, Our Heart Speaks, Inc (OHS). Visit our website here.

The primary mission is to give voice to individuals who are living with a new/acquired disability who have been successful in finding meaning and purpose to share their heartfelt inspirational stories. We serve a broad audience which includes the patient/disability community, caregivers, health care providers and thought leaders to help reimagine what is possible and not allow us to be defined by a medical diagnosis or disability.

Beyond the first-person narrative we welcome all art forms that best tell the author’s story and make the heartfelt connection with the viewer. I have recently embarked on a new initiative which is focusing on the potential opportunity that trauma in general and in particular neuro trauma could offer many of our patients if properly guided and nurtured.

In rehab we understandably focus on regaining function and, when not possible or slow in coming, compensatory strategies. However, as you know for many, if nurtured and guided- there is also the possibility of a new awareness or even ability that may not have been present prior to the trauma or medical event. It is this later possibility in addition to the critical more traditional focus on function and compensation that deserve further attention. Here is the link to our inaugural story:

Although all art forms can serve a crucial role, it is a very individual experience. Music therapy has a unique place when it comes to the field of rehabilitation. There is ample research that supports this role.

Besides individual stories that meet the spirit of this initiative that we can include on our online platform we are also seeking program exemplars that demonstrate best practices in order to facilitate the focus on new abilities and awareness post trauma/medical event (i.e. stroke, TBI, etc).

The long-term vision is to expand public awareness and that of the medical community to not view the result of neurological trauma as one exclusively of loss.

For this third way to be successful and scalable, we would need to be able to think out of the box so this can be made accessible and easily mainstreamed. Depending on the setting or community we will need to imagine options outside of the typical silos. This will take a thoughtful transdisciplinary approach.

We have the opportunity to better understand what in the work we are currently doing that speaks to this potential in our patients. In addition, we can better define the population that may benefit the most, explore further any available research, outline specific approaches that the creative arts can play and define how best to integrate seamlessly into our standard care and through best practices.

We welcome story submissions to Our Heart Speaks (OHS), that illustrate the discovery of a new ability or awareness not previously present as well as institutional/program exemplars that personify this goal. We have the ability to set up a zoom video interview for a selective group if that is preferred.

If you would like to join me and others on this journey of exploration, I would like to hear from you. You can contact me via the email below.

Keith W. L. Rafal, MD, MPH

Founder, Our Heart Speaks, Inc (OHS)


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