Community & Outreach

EVMS students strike a chord for wellness

Whether swaying, humming or tapping their feet, many people have a physical reaction to music. And a group of EVMS students is hoping to use that reaction to help people feel better.

The group, Beat of My Heart, is a Community-Engaged Learning initiative composed of students from the Doctor of Medicine, Medical Master’s and Physician Assistant programs.

Their goal is to use music and movement as a way to improve mental and physical wellbeing in Hampton Roads senior communities.

The initiative is divided into two distinct sections: community engagement and research.

Charles Springer, MD Class of 2023, manages the community outreach arm of Beat of My Heart.

“Our goal is to promote awareness of music and movement therapies in local healthcare communities,” Mr. Springer says.

One way they connect seniors with music is through Musical Bingo sessions via Zoom. They recently held several sessions with Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, a senior living community.

Several participants, including Emily Filer, were thrilled with the experience.

Emily Filer wears a mask while playing music bingo with students on her tablet in her home.
Westminster-Canterbury resident Emily Filer found playing music bingo with students from Beat of My Heart a welcome distraction from the isolation of COVID-19. Photo courtesy of: Amy Sheyer

“The EVMS students played songs, and we had to match them with the titles on the laminated boards,” Mrs. Filer says. “It was fun, fun, fun!” She had such a good time that she shared her experience on Facebook and encouraged other residents to join them next time.

In addition to bingo, students hold rhythm and music-making sessions. In those virtual events, they teach seniors how to play the keyboard.

The group recently purchased more than a dozen instruments, so participants could make music together during each session.


Our goal is to promote awareness of music and movement therapies in local healthcare communities.


Charles Springer, MD Class of 2023

As each event progresses, the Beat of my Heart team collects information on hospital admissions to monitor physical wellbeing, and depression scores to measure mental wellbeing.

Those measurements are carefully monitored by the research team, led by Karen Soohoo, MD Class of 2023. “We are currently in the process of getting institutional approval, so we can explore the impact these sessions are having on seniors,” Ms. Soohoo says. “We have a specific emphasis on mental health and depression as that is what the majority of research on music and movement interventions has focused on.” Mr. Springer believes the work they are doing has the potential to improve the health of all participants.

“Put simply, a happy person will feel more motivated and capable and strive harder to be healthy in other aspects of their life,” Mr. Springer says. In the future, the group hopes to begin working with several other sites through the Tidewater Arts Outreach organization.

“I believe everyone has a creative streak in some field of the humanities,” he adds, “and once they discover their passion, they can find significant mental health benefits.”