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Ping Ho's UCLArts and Healing: Elevating the Role of the Creative Arts PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Ping Ho's UCLArts and Healing: Elevating the Role of the Creative Arts

Summary: After Ping Ho, MA, MPH, quietly persevered in helping to launch and develop the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and UCLA Collaborative Centers for Integrative Medicine, Ho turned toward a project even closer to her heart. Under the aegis of the UCLA Pediatric Pain Program, Ho began mounting a series of programs that demonstrate the potency of the creating arts in healing. The most recent drew 800 to an event which featured medical intuitive Judith Orloff, MD, and Doors drummer John Densmore, a long-time meditation practitioner. And an earlier drumming program Ho offered led to a well-received partnership with the LA Unified School District in which drumming delivered by school counselors is being used as a healing tool for students ...  

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". . . in the world of art, one can get past the usual confinements . . ."
Reneé Emunah, Past-President of the National Association for Drama Therapy,
 from the website for UCLArts and Healing

John Densmore, the drummer in the historic rock band the Doors, is not someone who typically comes to mind when one thinks about integrated health care. Especially when one thinks in terms of the more conservative form integrated thinking takes inside of major academic medical centers.

Ping Ho, MA, MPH, founder of UCLArts and Healing
Earlier this month, however, Densmore was part of a program sponsored through an arm of the UCLA School of Medicine. One link in this bridge from rock 'n roll history to academic medicine is that Densmore began studying meditation with the Maharishi before the Beatles did. Densmore has for years linked his musical arts with his spiritual practice. Now interest in meditation in the medical schools is just beginning to catch up with the research evidence.

The more substantive bridge between the two, however, has been the savvy organizing of
Ping Ho, MA, MPH, founder of UCLArts and Healing.  Prior to this work, Ho had quietly persevered for nearly 20 years helping to construct UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the UCLA Collaborative Centers for Integrative Medicine out of an array of segmented departments. Ho met integrative pediatric pain specialist Lonnie Zelzer, MD in that work. The two established an arrangement where Ho began serving as director of educational outreach for Zelzer's operation which in turn gave Ho's unusual healing programs a home in the UCLA medical complex.

The aims of UCLArts and Healing, according to Ho, are "to facilitate the use of the arts for healing in the community." She does so by offering "experiential learning opportunities" to health professionals, educators, community workers, caregivers, and the general public. The website for the program cites the research which supports the endeavor:
"The wide-range health value of the arts and the arts therapies is supported by a small body of well-done scientific studies, a larger body of case studies, and observations by experts."
From this perch, Ho has developed numerous programs for practitioners and the public. Topics have including movement, dance, theater, poetry, visual arts, music, writing and, of course, drumming. Ho works to keep them low cost and accessible.

UCLArts and healing website banner
A special mission is to bring the healing touch of the arts to underserved children in Los Angeles. Ho believes that the arts as therapeutic engagement may be most useful with youth. She writes on her site: "The arts d
o not bear the stigma of therapy and can accommodate the intensity of the adolescent experience."

Ho is moving her theory into practice.  A UCLArts and Healing program on drumming in 2005 sparked interest from the head of elementary school counseling within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Ho later secured a grant and a partnership with Remo, Inc., a manufacturer of drums.  This allowed her to create a program through which a set of counselors have been trained to use drumming in their inner city schools and provided the instruments to use it.

The program has been highly regarded by these counselors. Ho and Zelzer gathered some basic pre and post outcomes in their day-long drumming session with the counselors
. Analysis of the surveys showed:

  • a significant increase in the likelihood of offering drumming during the school day (on a 1-7 scale, jumped from a median or 2 before to a median of 6 after)
  • a similar increase in the likelihood of offering drumming after the school day (on a 1-7 scale, jumped from a median or 2 before to a median of 5 after), and
  • improvement in the mood of the participants (from 5 to 7).

Counselors anticipated that benefits for students would come via stress reduction, self-expression, emotional release/management, cooperation, self-esteem, centering, and focus. For staff, benefits were expected to include stress reduction, team building, and burnout prevention.

Ho subsequently secured funding from, and a partnership with, Remo, Inc., a leading manufacturer of drums, which is enabling her to conduct a pilot study of drumming. The program aims to improve the school experience in fifth graders within the LAUSD. The program is being co-designed by a drum facilitator and a school counselor. More information on the program is available on the UCLArts and Healing website.

The most recent UCLArts and Healing program drew 800 people. Entitled "The Power of Dreams and Intuition to Heal," the program included medical intuitive, psychiatrist and author Judith Orloff, MD, oud player and percussionist Hani Naser and Densmore, formerly with the Doors. Naser and Densmore provided "live music for centering, relaxation and igniting intuition" according to an e-flier on the event.

Ho told the Integrator that people of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and professions attend UCLArts and Healing events. She adds that "particular interest" has been shown among mental health professionals, and that programs seem to work best with more than one of the arts in play.

Ho admits that the project - while personally fulfilling - has been a labor of love to this point. The first two years of work were supported by limited grants from the Salamander Fund.
Ho hopes that the "McDonald’s approach" - low-cost, high-volume - will make future programs self-sustaining.

". . . in the world of art, one can get past the usual confinements." "Getting past the usual confinements" is a poemic way of describing what we are trying to do with integrated health care and integrative medicine. This is true both at the macro-level, between institutions, and in clinical practice. The phrase also describes what most individuals with significant chronic conditions must do in their processes toward health. Kudos to Ho- a consummate organizer - and to her sponsor Zelzer for bursting some confinements of a medical setting for educators, practitioners, counselors and students.

It is interesting to note, from an integrated care perspective, that Ho has found that the programs - and the getting past the usual confinements - works best when two or more of the arts are combined in a program.

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