Students test the medicinal powers of music


MORE THAN 200 years after John A Logan, the US political leader, said that “music is the medicine of the mind”, medical students at NUI Galway are putting that theory to the test.

The university’s medical orchestra is due to play its first public performance tonight, opening the Arts in Action concert which is headlined by renowned traditional wizard accordionist Mairtín O’Connor and his five-piece band.

The 25-piece orchestra was brought together by singer Mary McPartlan and Carl Hession, a music teacher at Coláiste Iognáid, a local secondary school. McPartlan is the creative director of NUI Galway’s medicine and arts module, which introduces medical students to a term-long programme of structured engagement with performance, the visual arts and literature.

The initiative to integrate the arts into the undergraduate medical curriculum has elicited the support of Prof Fidelma Dunne, head of NUIG’s school of medicine.

Her daughter, Jennifer Scott, will play the violin in the new orchestra. Recent medical graduate Dr Lisa McAnena is soloist, and second year medical student Elvin Moynagh from south Dublin will play an arrangement for the uilleann pipes. He was reared on a diet of traditional music, as his mother plays the button accordion and his father plays the banjo.

Other participants include Julianne Harte, a third-year medical student from Loughrea, Co Galway. She began to learn the viola at the age of seven, and has played with the National Youth Orchestra and the Galway Youth Orchestra.

NUIG senior lecturer in clinical medicine and medical education, Dr Gerard Flaherty, is chairman of the medical school’s new arts committee. He says he believes that patients benefit greatly from listening to music as they try to cope with and recover from illness.

“I firmly believe that music can be the medicine of the mind,” he says. “Our new orchestra will showcase the wonderful, but sometimes hidden talents of our medical students and bring some joy to the wider community through their public performances.”

Dr Flaherty paid tribute to McPartlan and Hession for “bringing this idea to life”, with the support of school administrator Therese Dixon and college director of strategic development Declan Ashe.

The concert takes place tonight in NUIG’s Bailey Allen Hall at 8pm. Tickets are €10, or €5 for students. Doors open at 7.30pm.