• Mindful Music

Kidney Doctor Bridges Gap Between Music & Medicine

Why Music Matters Q&A Interview Series featuring Niloofar Nobakht, MD, FASN

Dr. Nobakht we are fascinated by your determination to bridge the gap between music and medicine. We’d love to learn more about you, your interest in music, and why you believe music matters.

What is your job at UCLA? How long have you been working there?

I joined UCLA in 2010.

I’m a medical doctor clinician, researcher and educator nephrologist faculty.

What does your work day look like?

My work day revolves around improving and advancing kidney health. I see patients with chronic kidney disease, in outpatient clinics and inpatient at the hospital. I evaluate kidney donors who wish to help patients with advanced chronic kidney disease, the ones who are in need of a kidney transplant. I’m also involved in training medical students, internal medicine residents, and nephrology fellows. I’m involved in research -clinical trials running for patients with chronic kidney disease.

What got you interested in kidneys?

My interest in kidney goes back to childhood. My mother was a nurse and my father is a nephrologist. Around age 8 or 9 I saw a dialysis machine, and thought,

“Wow there is an organ in our body that is a cleaning machine and if stops working them we need to clean blood with dialysis”

So I realized, if the kidney doesn’t work, humans need to be connected to a machine to live.

Did you ever play an instrument?

My sibling and I are medical doctors who play musical instruments. Both my mom and dad were very much supportive and encouraging me and my siblings to learn an instrument from a young age so I started playing piano.

Why does music matter to you?

The piano has a special power on me. It takes me to other states of perception.

I believe music is a science and a language both mathematically and historical.

And indeed it brings life.

From my physician perspective, I always read articles about studies showing positive effects of music on psychological measures, mood, pain response, management of anxiety and depression and the healing effect of music in different populations. There are centers in US integrating music & medicine at institutions such as John Hopkins and Mount Sinai, Louie Armstrong Center.

What is one memorable musical live event or song that means a lot to you?

About 30 years ago in Vienna, Austria, there was a concert I attended which combined waltz dances and classical music of Strauss and Mozart.

It was really an unforgettable night, I can’t describe how the harmony happened between the music and dance of the artists in the orchestral hall. Of course we are talking about the land of music, Austria!!! where the heart of classical music beats.

How has music helped your patients?

In 2018, I founded the CORE Music and Kidney program at UCLA, aiming to help and educate our patients about positive music effects on health and increase awareness of kidney disease in our nation. I worked together with Safa Shahidi, a very good friend and accomplished pianist. Mr. Shahidi once told me,

"Music has the power to lift all borders and unite our hearts through the language of sounds."

I have his quote on my desk as an inspirational reminder.

What attracted you to Mindful Music?

Each time I attend these beautiful performances, I’m a different person when I go back to my desk or clinic. I experienced a totally different day after attending a live concert.

I believe Mindful Music plays an important role for medical providers, house staff, and students who are studying and working at UCLA. The music really impacts well being, I’ve experienced it myself.

I appreciate all the hard work it takes for the music to exist part of my day and basically, I’m one of the regulars for the past 3 years.

What is your hope for music and medicine?

I hope for an innovative program or center which can incorporate health of the mind and physique for both providers and patient populations targeting different health issues.

Thank you Dr. Nobakht for sharing your passion and enthusiasm for music.

To learn more about Dr. Nobakht's CORE Kidney Music Program visit https://www.uclahealth.org/core-kidney/music-program