July 8, 2022

Medical and pharmacy students learn nuances of nonverbal communication from string musicians

Members of The Viano Quartet address the students and faculty after the performance.

A quartet of musicians who performed at The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival last month used the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Margherio Family Conference Center to hold a rehearsal and provide an educational session on nonverbal communication with 65 third-year medical students and 50 pharmacy students.

The musicians observe two students practicing nonverbal communication.

After a performance by The Viano Quartet, School of Medicine faculty led an interactive discussion with students on how to apply what they observed and learned to patient care and interprofessional communication.

“The musicians were indeed amazing. The Viano Quartet is a fantastic quartet. In essence, they are a highly functioning team, although they do not think of themselves that way. But they are. Watching them play together is truly a thing of beauty,” said Diane Levine, M.D. ’82, FACP, professor of Internal Medicine and vice chair of Education for the Department of Internal Medicine.

Students participate in listening skill-building exercises.

This is the third year musicians scheduled at the festival have also participated in an educational session at the School of Medicine. The session was designed to teach students the importance of nonverbal communication -- listening, eye contact, body language and tone.

“They taught us that communication does not just happen, but requires planning, collaboration and practice -- rehearsing. They emphasized the importance of teamwork and supporting each other during the performance,” Dr. Levine said. “These lessons are highly applicable to the delivery of health care by an interprofessional team. Just like different musicians who work together to play music, health care providers from different disciplines work together to deliver care to patients.”

Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival President Maury Okun contacted Michael Cher, M.D., chair of the WSU Department of Urology and the Jaffar Endowed Professor of Urology, and faculty advisor to the Detroit Medical Orchestra, about developing the program. Dr. Cher seized the opportunity and formed a work group. Then, under the leadership of Dr. Levine; Aline Saad, PharmD., director of Interprofessional Education at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; Simone Brennen, Ph.D., learning skills specialist at the School of Medicine; and Georgiana Marusca, M.D. ’20, an Internal Medicine resident at the Detroit Medical Center, the final program and assessments were developed.

Faculty and staff with The Viano Quartet.

“I learned how even posture can make a difference in how a message is conveyed,” said one student participant in post-event survey.

“Nonverbal clues are more than just facial expression, body language and tone on their own, they interact greatly together,” another added.

Dr. Marusca and fellow Class of 2020 medical alumni Leo Hall, M.D.; and Connor Buechler, M.D., teamed with Dr. Brennan on  “Utilizing Chamber Music to Teach Non-Verbal Communication to Medical Students: A Pilot Initiative,” published in the April 2021 issue of the journal Cureus, describing outcomes of the workshop. Dr. Levine was the publication’s senior author.

This was the 29th season of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, held June 10-25 at various venues in southeast Michigan. The WSU session was made possible through the support of Maurice Binkow and a grant from the Gershenson Trust.

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