A childhood stroke has interrupted Erik Hernandez's speech, but not his ability to express himself. He's finding the beat with the help of Meagan Hughes, a music therapist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. The program introduces music to help young patients cope with the stress and discomfort of being hospitalized.
"The young boy I was working with was engaged drumming, nothing else mattered, truly a therapeutic moment," Hughes said.
For several hours a day, Hughes rolls her cart, filled with instruments from room to room. For many young patients, the sessions are a break from ongoing treatments.
It doesn't have to be intimidating, music can be a vehicle to express emotion," Hughes said.
The music therapy program is a collaboration between UCSF and a non-profit with a mission is to place musicians into public service.
Music National Service was started by San Francisco musician Kiff Gallagher, on a model similar to AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps The group now places what it calls 'MusicianCorps' fellows in schools and hospitals across the country.
"I asked myself, 'going to have health corps and green corps why wouldn't you have a music corps when music can do so much to bring people together,'" he said.
"The model is brilliant. Not only is it caring for children, but it is easy to take out into the world as well," UCSF Child Life Services Director Michael Towne said.
Musician Corps fellows receive health insurance and a monthly salary while they're in the program. Hughes is hoping to continue on as a therapist with UCSF when her two year fellowship ends.