Josh Salzman (BS Psychology ‘19) studies behavioral and cognitive neuroscience at UF, but he also sings, plays guitar and makes crafts with children. Through his volunteer activity and enrollment in UF's Center for Arts in Medicine, he combined his interests of science and art to strengthen his studies.
As a freshman, Salzman began volunteering with the Sing for Life program, which promotes lifelong singing and wellbeing for patients with Parkinson’s disease. This group consists of somewhere between 8 and 10 participants along with volunteers led by UF School of Music professors Dr. Brenda Smith and Ronald Burrichter.
A session often consists of gathering the group and singing classic and catchy songs such as “You Are My Sunshine” or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” with the goal of getting the patients to practice motor skills needed to speak as well as enjoying the engagement with others.
This program is responsible for introducing Salzman to the tremendous impact of arts in medicine or healthcare settings and led him to pursue a Music in Medicine certificate.
“It really humanizes their condition” Salzman said. “It becomes a space where they’re just singers, and it’s really special for me to facilitate.”
One of Salzman’s most memorable experiences from Sing for Life is when a woman approached him after a session and asked him if they could sing a duet. They spent 15 minute sessions rehearsing and one December day they decided to surprise everyone with their “Baby It’s Cold Outside” performance.
“Out of nowhere I said ‘Mr. B I have an announcement.’ I got up, I grabbed the woman’s hand, and we started singing this duet acapella,” Salzman said. “We were doing this awesome performance together in front of all my friends and our little Sing for Life family.”
Moments such as this are what encouraged Salzman to pursue his Music in Medicine certificate where he was able to expand his study of the relationship between music and the human brain, cultural beliefs surrounding health, and the effect of integrating art in to clinical settings.
For the final credit of his certificate, Salzman was instructed to develop, plan and lead his own program that he designed for Al'z Place, an elder care facility for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Salzman’s unique program included a facilitated singing group that utilizes karaoke. Salzman found that for many, familiar songs assisted the participants in really waking up and becoming engaged.
“My first session I decided to sing “Amazing Grace” with these folks,” Salzman said. “This man in the very back was sleeping... he was ‘turned off,’ but as we started to sing ‘amazing grace how sweet the sound’ he turned up, he started belting the words, and not only that but started singing his own unique verses.”’
Through these experiences, Salzman has had the pleasure of not only learning about their individual stories and experiences, but also about skills such as wisdom, empowerment, active listening and validation.
Upon graduating from UF this Spring, Salzman will be continuing his education at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. From his introductory studies of music in medicine, Salzman said he feels equipped to integrate his knowledge of the impact of arts in medicine into his future practice as a physician.
He has goals of working with other professionals to bring art and color into the facility or hospital environment and plans to model these projects after the UF Arts in Medicine program.
"I hope to at least, at the minimum, be the singing doctor," he said. "That's my dream."