Meet Hope, Doernbecher’s hospital facility dog

“Can I take her home with me?”

It’s one of the questions Child Life Program Manager Sandy Westfall hears most often from Doernbecher patients (and, occasionally, employees) when they first meet Hope, Doernbecher’s new facility dog.

Below, we answer more questions about the dog who’s bringing hope to our halls, one smile at a time.

What does Hope do at Doernbecher?

As “chief canine officer,” Hope’s job is to provide emotional support, therapy and love to our pediatric patients and their families. Her handler, Sandy, introduces Hope to Doernbecher patients by request. They can take Hope for walks or play a game of fetch in the courtyard. When Hope meets patients who are unable to get out of bed, Sandy issues one of her favorite commands: “Snuggle!”

Hope’s impact extends far beyond patient rooms. Sandy brings her along to meetings, where OHSU employees can be spotted crouching down to get some quality Hope time. The duo inevitably meet new friends when walking between units or when Hope’s headed outside for a break. Hope’s schedule does allow for some downtime, and she enjoys well-deserved naps in Sandy’s office.

How is Hope different from a therapy dog or a service dog?

A facility dog’s training is much more extensive than that of a therapy dog, lasting about a year and a half. Unlike service and guide dogs, Hope was trained to serve more than one person. She came to Doernbecher in January from Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, a non-profit organization that provides professionally trained dogs for people in need. Hope began her training when she was just 8 weeks old, undergoing rigorous health and temperament screenings and learning more than 70 commands.

Hope is also handled by a professional: Sandy underwent rigorous training as well, traveling to Maui for an intensive program that included an overview on dog psychology, giving instruction and the hygiene measures that are necessary for a hospital facility dog. Hope lives with Sandy and the two carpool into work each day to make the rounds together.

What makes Hope a good fit for Doernbecher? 

Assistance Dogs of Hawaii founders Mo and Will Maurer selected Hope, an English Cream Golden Retriever, for her role because of her calm demeanor. Not many dogs are well suited for a hospital environment, but Hope is not an easily distracted dog. The screenings she went through in her training helped ensure that she would be a good fit for Doernbecher patients and families.

“Hope’s presence has changed the mood of the whole hospital,” Sandy said. “I’ve seen parents overjoyed because it’s the first time they’ve seen their child smile in awhile. She has brought a lot more joy and love and excitement for our kids.”

What does Hope like to do in her free time?

When she isn’t snuggling with our patients, Hope loves a good game of catch. Like any true Oregonian, she also enjoys hiking and trips to the beach.


Hope comes to us thanks to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation board member Kate McCoy and her husband, Craig, who brought Assistance Dogs of Hawaii to the attention of Doernbecher administration. The McCoys believed that a facility dog would bring hope, love, joy and healing to Doernbecher patients, families and staff, and they made a generous gift to help establish the Hope Fund within the Doernbecher Foundation. Thank you, Kate and Craig!

Follow along with Hope’s adventure using the #dbhope hashtag – we’ll also be sharing Hope photos and stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It’s a roller coaster ride: One mom’s NICU experience

Sarah Colton’s daughter, Rosy, weighed 1 lb 15 oz when she was born by emergency C-section. Rosy spent a total of 73 days in the Doernbecher Neonatal Care Center (DNCC), first in the “micro-preemie” unit and then, once she had gained more weight, in pod 6. Today, Rosy is a happy and healthy baby girl about to turn 4 months old (her corrected age is 1 month). Sarah shares her family’s NICU experience below.


I had severe chest pain the weekend of Thanksgiving and went into Labor and Delivery, where I found out I had HELLP syndrome. The doctors were able to stabilize me for two days and gave me steroids to help Rosy’s lungs develop. The following Tuesday evening, my liver began to fail and I began slowly bleeding out – Rosy was born by emergency C-section on December 3, 2014, at 27 weeks and 5 days old gestation. I had further complications and ended up in the cardiac ICU for two days before I was able to see my daughter for the first time. The NICU nurses were amazing and brought me photos of her while I was in the ICU.

For the 73 days that Rosy was in the NICU, it was really challenging to juggle work, our time at the NICU and time with our 2 1/2-year-old, Gunner. Our daily schedule consisted of my going to the NICU during the daytime and working next to Rosy’s bed. I’d leave to pick Gunner up from daycare at 4 p.m. and have family time at home until his 8 p.m. bedtime. After that, Garrett would visit Rosy in the NICU.

Having a baby in the NICU is emotionally difficult. I wasn’t able to form the same bond I had with Gunner because I wasn’t able to hold and breastfeed her at home. I was meticulous with my pumping – it felt like this was one of the only things I could do to help her development while she was in the NICU. It was a long 73 days, but Garrett and I made it a point to visit every day, and I did at least an hour of “Kangaroo Care” daily.

Jenn, Pam, Sandy, Nancy, Lynne and all of the NICU staff were so supportive and loving. It was challenging, to say the least, but we made it through. The NICU is a roller coaster ride – there are ups and downs every day. You just have to stay strong and take it day by day.


Every year, more than 5,000 babies in Oregon and Southwest Washington are born too soon. Read about the March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program in the Doernbecher Neonatal Care Center (DNCC) here, and consider joining OHSU/Doernbecher Team Tiny Feet at the 2016 March for Babies team here.

Doernbecher’s Child Life specialists: “We’re here for you and you can do this”

This Child Life Month, we’re celebrating the team that supports the emotional and developmental needs of children and families while they’re at Doernbecher. Below, Child Life specialists Peggy Adams, Kimberly Kuehnert and Hannah Ono explain why they chose this career path and how it can be both rewarding and challenging.

Why did you decide to become a Child Life Specialist?

My decision to become a Child Life Specialist (CCLS) came in a roundabout way. All throughout high school, I was working toward becoming a pre-med major in college, but life intervened at the end of my sophomore year in the form of a leukemia diagnosis and over 100 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. I don’t think I was the best Child Life patient, but I do remember finally giving in to a CCLS who was trying to get this angry teenager to do some stamp artwork.

Our amazing Child Life team! Back row, pictured from left: Peggy Adams, Hannah Ono, Jan Crider, Allison Laurenza, Beth Christian. Front Row: Kim Kuehnert, Sandra Westfall, Hospital Facility Dog Hope, Susan Sherwood. Not pictured: Rebekah  Coles and Jess Calvert

Our amazing Child Life team! Back row, pictured from left: Peggy Adams, Hannah Ono, Jan Crider, Allison Laurenza, Beth Christian. Front Row: Kim Kuehnert, Sandra Westfall, Hospital Facility Dog Hope, Susan Sherwood. Not pictured: Rebekah Coles and Jess Calvert

Despite my best efforts, I had to let go of pursuing a pre-med degree but I still knew that I wanted to work in the healthcare field. I didn’t really consider a career in the Child Life profession until Peggy let me shadow her for a day and offered to let me do a Child Life practicum with her. It took a few years of moving around hospitals but I’m happy to have landed in the Outpatient Pediatric Hem/Onc and Infusion Clinic here at Doernbecher!

What’s the best part about the Child Life profession?

The best part of my job is having a family let you into their lives when they’re at their most vulnerable. Sharing in their sorrows and joy and easing their pain is one of the mast satisfying experiences I know. –Kimberly

We take joy in the little things, like when a little girl learns to face her fear of getting her port accessed by singing Katy Perry’s “Roar” song, roaring when the port needle goes in and dancing off her sadness to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” So much life and joy happens within our hospital walls, and that’s something that we don’t often realize or remember. –Hannah

What’s the most difficult part about your job?

I think one of the most challenging things is prioritizing patient needs when you know that there are so many patients who have needs and there are only so many hours in the day. –Peggy

You never want to see kids, teens or young adults sick. It can be especially difficult working in the pediatric hem/onc clinic because diagnoses are so serious and treatment can be hard for our kids. Although working in the clinic sometimes reminds me of my own experiences in the hospital, I know that everyone has their own journey and interpretation of what’s going on. The rewards of working with these patients definitely outweigh any challenges that I’ve come across. –Hannah

What encouragement or advice would you give Doernbecher families?

Some very good things can come out of very difficult times. I’ve seen amazing strength and I’ve seen families coming together to communicate better and rally together. Also, remember that you are your child’s best advocate, but you also need to care for yourself. Build in little breaks for yourself to re-energize – you’ll be better able to withstand the long haul. –Peggy

You have an entire team of people that are here for you, medically, socially and emotionally. We will laugh with you and cry with you, supporting you on your journey and reminding you of the strength and courage you have within you. –Kimberly

You can do this. When faced with whatever diagnosis, treatment or situation that brings you here to our hospital, you may seem overwhelmed and may not know where to start. Just remember that there are so many people here at Doernbecher, Child Life Specialists included, who are here to support you, your child and your family. Patients, parents, caregivers, siblings and others don’t often realize just how strong they are and what they’re capable of, so ask for help when or if needed. We’re here for you and you can do this. –Hannah


Visit our Child Life program website to read about the activities and guidance it provides, and learn more about Doernbecher’s Family Resource Center website here. If you’d like to pass along a message to a member of our Child Life team, please comment below or email and it will be passed along.

Doctors Day Q&A with Dr. Nate Selden

In celebration of National Doctors Day, we sat down with Dr. Nate Selden to ask what inspired him to become a physician – and what continues to inspire him in his day-to-day life as the Campagna Chair of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Doernbecher and Director of OHSU’s Neurological Surgery Residency Program.

Why did you become a physician?

Although my father and both grandfathers were doctors, I was pretty certain until almost the end of college that I did not want to become a physician. I was interested in history and political science, and spent a year of college living and studying in Italy. During my studies, however, I also developed a fascination for the brain and how it underlies everything that makes us human.

After graduating from Stanford University, I had a wonderful opportunity to study for three years at Cambridge University, as a Marshall Scholar and guest of the British government. This gave me a chance I never otherwise would have had to study the brain full time and develop a deeper understanding of its function. At Cambridge, I earned a PhD in neuroscience, and prepared for a career in basic research. But as my studies in England drew to a close, I realized my fascination with the brain was founded on a curiosity about people. I wanted to spend my career ‘hands on’ with the people I had been curious about as a scientist.

So, instead of a post-doctoral laboratory position, I returned home to begin medical school at Harvard. It was a great decision. On my second day of medical school, I met my future wife (a classmate). And I love being a doctor!

What’s something people might be surprised to know about your career?

Because I changed my career direction towards the end of college, I was missing some of the necessary prerequisites for medical school, such as the final class in the organic chemistry series. To my surprise, I convinced most of the medical schools I was interested in to waive this entry requirement, and got started on my medical studies. Halfway through the first semester, though, I found out why organic chemistry is required for pre-medical students: I failed the midterm examination for my medical school biochemistry class. After studying day and night for two weeks straight, I passed the final with a solid mark, and my medical career carried on.

Day to day, I never use any of the information I studied in biochemistry. I do use my knowledge of neuroscience, however, not just to treat brain diseases, but also to understand how young adults learn and improve. One of my most rewarding activities as an academic neurosurgeon has been to develop new systems for teaching safety and professionalism to young trainees using simulation courses, as well as new ways to objectively assess progress towards safe, independent practice. Every neurosurgeon we train well will take care of thousands of patients that I will never even see; that is high impact! 

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is taking care of dying children, with severe brain injury or incurable cancer. It is very difficult talking to parents about these unthinkable tragedies. However, it is as important to do so compassionately and supportively as it is to do a brain or spinal cord surgery well. Both are key parts of my job.

And the most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of my job comes in two parts. One is to see a patient back in my clinic after a challenging operation with a great outcome. When I can reassure parents that the prognosis is good, I see the strain and worry lift from their shoulders. And I see that the children, especially the younger ones, are simply their resilient selves, blissfully unaware of how serious their condition was. The second part is to share that experience with the resident trainees who care for children with me. Their wonder and deep satisfaction as they experience these successes for the first time are palpable. Occasionally, we inspire one of them to pursue pediatric neurosurgery, and that is a terrific endorsement of the work we do at Doernbecher.

What advice would you give aspiring physicians?

Spend time with practicing physicians and surgeons to see what their day-to-day life is really like. Make sure you enjoy the rhythms of a normal medical routine and not just the idea of being a doctor. Medicine is a labor of love that requires diligence and resilience. If you have a passion for the work, it is its own reward.


Nathan R. Selden, M.D., Ph.D.
Mario and Edie Campagna Chair of Pediatric Neurosurgery
Director, OHSU Neurological Surgery Residency Program
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital


If you’d like to join us in thanking the physicians who care for our patients and families, we invite you to leave a comment on our Facebook page or make a donation in your Doernbecher doc’s name.

When is my child old enough to use an iPad or tablet?

In general, consider any child younger than 2 years old too young.

Tablets may prevent infants and toddlers from engaging in the give-and-take of everyday exchanges with family as well as the “real” world of playing with physical objects that require and develop sensory and motor skills. iPads do offer some terrific “edutainment” apps to help young children learn, especially in spelling, reading and math.

Tablets can also promote self-control. Before you use one for the first time, practice when it’s time to start and stop using it. Make its use dependent upon stopping on time, and let the child earn additional minutes with good behavior.

Finally, lead by example: Children mirror what their parents do, and if you’re always on your phone (“app-sorbed”), your child may follow suit or sigh, cry or go to other great lengths to get your attention.

Craigan Usher, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

What is National Poison Prevention Week?

More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to poison centers all across the nation, and more than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home. Since 1962, the President of the United States has proclaimed the third week of March as National Poison Prevention Week to raise awareness about the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.

The Oregon Poison Center would like to remind you that this is the time to protect you and your family members from unintentional poisonings.

What is a poison?

A poison is something that can be harmful if swallowed, spilled on the skin, splashed in the eyes or breathed in. Children are frequently confused about what a poison is. They may know that poisons are “bad” but children do not know that something sweet smelling or sweet tasting can also be a poison.

Below are some examples of potential poisons.


  • Pain or fever relievers
  • Cough and cold preparations
  • Pills for depression or heart disease

Cleaners for home, car, and clothes:

  • Toilet cleaners and drain openers
  • Laundry detergents and bleach
  • Kerosene, gasoline and lamp oils
  • Antifreeze and windshield washer fluids

Four tips to prevent poisoning:

  • Lock up all poisons whenever possible.
  • Know that child-resistant caps are NEVER childproof.
  • Remember: Adults are often victims of accidental poisonings.
  • Label dangerous products with Mr. Yuk stickers to help kids “stay away” from poisons. Find out more about the Mr. Yuk poison warning symbol here.

For more tips, hazard alerts and news, visit the Oregon Poison Center website or the American Association of Poison Control Centers website. Remember, the Poison Center is open 24 hours, seven days a week, and we’re here to help you with poisonings and poison prevention. In the case of an emergency, you should always contact your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 emergency services.

Tonya Drayden, RN, MSN, CSPI
Public Education Coordinator
Oregon Poison Center, OHSU

About the man who put kids’ health on the national research agenda

Healthcare practice and medical science are dominated by the diseases many of us may acquire at some point in our lives. Not surprisingly, many of the diseases that affect children get short shrift and the underlying science often lacks adequate funding. Seldom do we escape this pseudo logic whereby rare disease research provides a poor return on investment – in other words, few cases equals low impact.

On March 9, David Frohnmayer passed away. Dave has been rightly credited for his work as Oregon State Attorney General and widely lauded for his tenure at the University of Oregon. Curiously missing from the many fitting accounts of his accomplishments was what I have always considered one of his proudest achievements: generating awareness, philanthropic commitment and National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to understand genetic diseases in children, and in particular Fanconi Anemia.

I first had the pleasure of meeting Dave in 1999 at a scientific meeting, where he appeared to be the sole non-scientist in the room. With plenty of egos assembled, he seemed refreshingly humble, his questions almost invariably insightful. His calm and thoughtful demeanor on this and many other occasions was infectious as he was able to get people to do the same thing he did so well: listen. Dave commanded the room with sheer sincerity and reason. He always struck me as a quiet, incisive thinker and he brought people together to build sometimes surprising and often long-lasting alliances.

Over the ensuing decade and a half, he, his wife Lynn and many others, including prominent OHSU faculty, turned the spotlight on a rare genetic disease: Fanconi Anemia (FA), which affected his own family. The Fanconi Anemia Research Fund became a model of administrative thrift and philanthropic impact that others would follow. The Fund helped people understand that children with rare diseases have lessons to share – lessons that can help adults suffering from cancer.

A tireless commitment to the cause, some seed funds and Dave’s vision seemed to propel the FA community of patients, parents, doctors and scientists forward. The rewards are now readily apparent in gains in our scientific understanding of genetic diseases, FA first and foremost. Children and young adults diagnosed with FA today benefit directly and in no small measure from this legacy, as his efforts have led to improved diagnostics, therapies and the general awareness of risk factors for FA patients.

Remarkably, the larger scientific community and the NIH began to understand the powerful lessons FA could teach and they too followed with funding, which in turn attracted physicians and scientists who shared Dave’s abiding interest in helping kids suffering from rare genetic diseases.

Beyond the “cute-n-cuddly” others mistake for pediatric advocacy, Dave’s deeply rational approach and sheer grit were effective far beyond what we could have hoped for. Dave leaves many lasting contributions to Oregon, but some of us consider his work for patients with Fanconi Anemia – though it’s far from finished – his most significant legacy.

Peter Kurre, M.D.
Professor, Pediatrics | Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

Buckle up: Three easy steps for finding the right bike helmet

The longer days of spring mean more time to enjoy being outdoors and bike riding. Bicycling is a great activity for every member of the family and the most important piece of equipment is a helmet.

Today, there are a variety of styles and colors to choose from, but no matter which one you like best, make sure it has the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker inside. This label lets you know that your helmet meets safety standards and provides protection when used properly.

Wearing a properly fitted helmet every time you ride your bike reduces the chance of a traumatic head injury by 88 percent. You can fit your helmet in three easy steps:

  • First, make sure it is the right size – your helmet should fit snuggly and not rock back and forth or side to side. If it does, try a smaller size.
  • Once you have the right size, make it level on your head so only one or two fingers fit between your eyebrow and the top of the helmet.
  • Next, adjust the side straps so that they form a V under each ear. Buckle the helmet and pull on the chin strap until it is snug under the chin. You should be able to place two fingers comfortably under the strap beneath your chin. Make sure to buckle your strap every time you wear your helmet.

Oregon law states that children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when on a bike, scooter, roller skates or skateboard. Doernbecher’s Tom Sargent Safety Center reminds families that everyone should wear a helmet. Be a role model for your child – they learn best from watching you and if they see you wearing your helmet they will be more likely to wear theirs, too.

Children can begin wearing a helmet at one year or with the approval of their primary care provider. Having a child wear a helmet the first time they are transported in a carrier or get on their tricycle establishes an early helmet habit.

It is recommended that bike helmets be replaced every five years or when in an accident. The Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center offers low-cost helmets from Toddler to Adult XL and for community groups, too. Everyone – children and adults – should always wear a helmet when riding a bike.

Be a ROLL MODEL and wear your bike helmet!

Marianne Bridwell-Chapman
Program Coordinator
OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center

Finding bravery at Doernbecher

If you’ve been to Doernbecher recently, you may have noticed some new faces outside the 10th floor pediatric hematology/oncology clinic. These “Brave Bots,” designed and created by local artist Gary Hirsch, invite passersby to take a photo and explore one of the questions painted on the bots:

  • Who helps you be brave?
  • What’s your superpower?
  • What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

The installation at Doernbecher is the first Brave Bot mural inside of a children’s hospital. It grew out of a smaller project: the tiny domino tile Brave Bots Gary paints and donates to local hospitals.

Nurse Manager Laura Nibert, who works in Doernbecher’s Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Treatment Center, experienced firsthand the power the tiny bots held. Her daughters, Marlo and Hadley, have both been hospitalized for health challenges stemming from their premature birth. After realizing what a helpful tool the Brave Bots were for patients and parents alike, Laura and our Child Life team worked with Gary to come up with a larger-than-life installation in Doernbecher. Below, she shares her story.

How did the Brave Bots help your family?

One of my daughters, Marlo, has cerebral palsy and has been through a lot of surgeries. Before her femoral osteotomy surgery, we gave her a Brave Bot, which she named “BeeBee,” and told her that this little bot was what she’d hold in her hand when she needed to be brave. They let her take it into surgery, and she held it in her hand the whole time – when she came out of surgery, she still had it. From then on, she had to have BeeBee in her hand for any procedure. She would give it one kiss and hold it to her heart. Even though she might still feel pain, her routine made her feel brave and it helped her focus.

How do you think the Brave Bot installation will impact Doernbecher?

I think that the mural is a really interactive way for kids to express themselves. A lot of kids want to help other kids, and taking a photo with the Brave Bot and sharing what helps them be brave is one way to do that. The questions are simple, but the answers are profound. This thought process helps not just kids with cancer – it helps all kids in the hospital, because they all have to be brave.

It’s not just for the kids, though – it’s for the parents as well. When you’re in the hospital with your child, it’s almost like the world is pulled out underneath you. You’re left with a sense of helplessness. If a child can determine what helps them be brave, the parents can take that and use it to help them through whatever it is they might be experiencing. It enables parents not to feel so helpless in what might otherwise seem like a helpless situation.

How does being a nurse impact you when your own kids are in the hospital? 

I have a medical background, but that doesn’t make me any different from other parents. I’ve been in the hospital with my kids many times. When they’re being poked and prodded, I know, of course, that it has to be done, but I’ve often felt helpless. As a parent, your job is to always protect your child. You know that the nurses and physicians are doing what they need to do to help your child get better, but it can still be very difficult to watch. I think the Brave Bots help give a little power back to the parents in identifying what helps their own kids be brave.

We’re turning the tables and asking you some of the Brave Bot prompts! First, who helps you be brave? 

My kids help me be brave, as do the children that come through our clinic. These kids fight for their lives and really have a great outlook despite all that they’re going through.

What’s your superpower?

I have two: First, the love of children. Second, wanting to make the world a better place for all kids, which I do by being a nurse. I’ve been a nurse for almost 23 years and I like to think that in those years I’ve been able to make the world a better place for kids.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Becoming a mom. There’s so much uncertainty that comes with pregnancy and having children. The bravest thing I’ve ever done was definitely the best thing I’ve ever done. I have the best children – they are my world.


Share your stories of bravery in the comments below, or by snapping a photo and uploading it with the hashtag #DoernbecherBot.

In the news:
Robot dominoes help sick kids at Doernbecher (KGW)
Photo album: The Brave Bots are here! 


Meet MyMusicRx

A children’s hospital may not seem like the most likely place for a jam session or a guitar lesson, but it happens every day at Doernbecher through a Children’s Cancer Association (CCA) program called MyMusicRx. The CCA’s mission is to bring joy into the lives of seriously ill children, teens and their families, and MyMusicRx strives to do so by leveraging the healing power of music. Program specialists visit local medical facilities to interact with patients and their families in 1:1 and group settings, and the program website provides “music medicine” digitally for kids across the nation.

With the help of Doernbecher’s Child Life team, MyMusicRx specialists work with patients in a variety of ways. After introductions, they get a feel for the types of music the patients like best. If the patient has experience singing, playing an instrument or dancing, for example, the specialist might offer music lessons or the two will play music together. If music making is too arduous, specialists and their patient pals watch and talk about music videos together.

Take a moment to meet two MyMusicRx specialists (and talented musicians) who work with kids at Doernbecher, spreading joy, healing and a bit of magic through music.

Meet Matt

Matt French has worked for MyMusicRx for two and a half years. Prior to his time with CCA, he worked as a private drums/guitar instructor. 

How would you describe the impact music has on a patient? 

Music is a great distraction from their treatment – it makes the kids feel normal for the 20 or 30 minutes that we’re in there. Most of the time, when there’s a knock on the door, there are medical personnel on the other side;  MyMusicRx helps patients forget about why they’re here. Parents, too, are able to relax and watch their kids have fun and laugh and play music with them. If a patient has had something traumatic happen that affects their plans for their future, we might be able to go in there and teach them how to play an instrument, which could completely change their direction and their future and motivations.

You’ve built relationships with lots of patients and families. Any you’d care to share? 

There’s a patient I’ve been working with since I started, and I still see him regularly. He was here before I started working here, and I’ve maintained a relationship with him, playing events with him – he’s taken music and made it a lifetime thing. He’s had a lot of opportunities because of the CCA, including auditioning for “America’s Got Talent” and recording with Chris Funk [of The Decemberists]. Together, we established that music was a big, big thing to him, and it’s truly helping him through his life.


Meet Chris

Chris Rubeo joined the MyMusicRx team almost a year ago, having previously worked as a facilitator in an expressive arts therapy program. 

What interested you about working for CCA’s MyMusicRx program? 

Before this, I was doing work in a group home with kids who had a history of trauma and abuse. I wanted to continue working with kids in a pediatric setting using music in a therapeutic way. What appealed to me about CCA how was how patient driven the programs are and how much we tailor each interaction to the specific patient we’re seeing.

The specialists each bring different types of interactions to the table depending on our backgrounds and specialties – we each sort of work in different arenas based on our skills. Our mission, which is to bring joy into the lives of kids, gives us license to use whatever tools, methods and approaches work well for those kids. I love that MyMusicRx is not prescriptive in that sense. We have a lot of leeway, which allows us to do some pretty cool stuff.

How does music impact patients of varying ages? 

That’s an excellent and really hard question to answer because it really depends on the kids. For kids under 5, music is still really interconnected with exploration and play; it serves a more basic function for them. In some situations, music helps with really basic life functions like sleeping. It adds a certain normalcy to their experience in the hospital.

For the older children moving into their teens, music is very wound up with their identity making: finding who they are and expressing who they are for themselves and for others. For this population, discussions of music and playing music have a lot more to do with letting them express themselves, and perhaps to process things like anxieties, fears and pain in a nonverbal way.

What’s something you want others to know about the kids you work with?

When I tell people what I do, they often respond, “It must be so hard working with those kids every day.” What they don’t realize is it’s actually super fun – kids are incredibly resilient and they just want to be kids. What we do every day is help them express the joy and playfulness that, as kids, they want to express and experience. We’re not imposing it on them; we’re just helping them get there.


You can learn more about the CCA here and check out the latest on MyMusicRx here.

If you’ve ever worked with MyMusicRx, we’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments!

Doernbecher Best in the Country U.S. News & World Report


Participation Guidelines

Remember: information you share here is public; it isn't medical advice. Need advice or treatment? Contact your healthcare provider directly. Read our Terms of Use and this disclaimer for details.
wordpress stats plugin