‘Not like an essay for school’: Sydney teen published in prestigious medical journal

A 17-year-old Sydneysider has been published in a prestigious medical journal after a conversation with his cousin at Christmas turned into an academic project they hope will spur future research.

Daniel Koothoor, a Year 11 student from Belfield, and his cousin, trainee doctor and medical researcher at the University of Adelaide Joshua Kovoor, have co-authored a paper collating the overwhelmingly positive evidence for the impact of music on patients recovering from surgery.

The pair play four instruments between them – double bass, violin, cello and piano – and say they have a shared interest in how music can help improve people’s lives.

We were talking about how music can help people in difficult times when I was back in Sydney at Christmas, and it gave us the idea to look into what’s been done in recovery after surgery, Kovoor said. Hopefully it can be used as a foundation for future work.

For Daniel, the project has been a fun break from his International Baccalaureate studies at Trinity Grammar School.

It’s not like just writing an essay for school, he said, adding he enjoyed being able to work in the academic space with his cousin and his PhD supervisor, Professor Guy Maddern, a liver surgeon in Adelaide.

The paper found that while there was strong evidence music assisted people with pain and anxiety management, personal music devices were best as people did not get benefit from listening to music they did not enjoy.

All the studies have only found upsides, Kovoor said. It’s very low cost, it reduces people’s pain; their need for painkilling medications like opioids.

To everyone involved’s surprise, the paper, , was accepted as a research letter in the prestigious British Journal of Surgery last month.

To be honest I was not particularly optimistic, but I guess it goes to show: nothing ventured, nothing gained, Maddern said, adding it was an area he personally believed demanded further study and policy implementation.

There are a lot of really quite simple things that could be done to make the surgical experience better, and if you do that they are more relaxed and may not need the same pain relief, he said, comparing it to the introduction of in-flight entertainment on a place.

Kovoor’s actual phD is on gut recovery after surgery. However, he said he was also hoping to design a study to collect his own data on music exposure in recovery, ideally with his cousin, who hasn’t quite decided what he wants to do after school but has medicine and research high on his list.

It’s something we want to study more together, Kovoor said.

Music medicine (using music to relax a patient) and music therapy (the use of music as an interactive tool for therapy) both have a growing evidence base, Australian Music Therapy Association president Dr Jeanette Tamplin said.

Now that we understand a lot more about how the brain processes music, we can use that to help people, she said.

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