Every so often, piano music fills the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. From students who sit down to spend a musical moment away from the lab, to people who reside in long-term care at UBC Hospital finding a few minutes for a song, the piano has been a bright spot for our community. It is nice on its own, but it serves a larger purpose; a little music here and there has a lot to do with improving the wellbeing of our clinic visitors, staff, students, and researchers.

Brain wellness is about more than the right dose of medicine and regular check-ins with clinical teams. For Dr. Silke Cresswell, it is about enhancing an individual’s lifestyle to nurture the whole person; clinical care is important, and so is exercising, wholesome nutrition, making time for friends and family, enjoying music and art, mindful living and spending time in nature. With that in mind, Dr. Cresswell and sports medicine luminary Dr. Jack Taunton, along with numerous colleagues, have been working together to launch the BC Brain Wellness Program to provide complementary support for people who access the clinics at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and their care partners, and outreach to the larger community as a preventative intervention to support healthier aging.

BC Brain Wellness Program

The BC Brain Wellness Program is an interactive effort to establish clinically relevant lifestyle complements to medical care at DMCBH. It brings together partners from across UBC including from Sports Medicine, Physiotherapy, the School of Music, Kinesiology, Neurology, Psychiatry, Neurosciences, and Nutrition, as well as several community partners and Vancouver Coastal Health. By combining clinical care with interventions that support healthier lifestyles, Dr. Cresswell and colleagues hope to improve and sustain quality of life for people living with brain disorders and their care partners.

“We are not caring for a disease, we are caring for a person,” explained Dr. Cresswell, who has been working with clinical teams at DMCBH to establish patient partnerships and connect clinician-scientists with opportunities to participate in wellness initiatives. “So we need to provide sustainable ways for people to participate in physical activities, as well as in arts and music, in order to keep them active in their communities and provide networks of support and socialization.”

“Launching the BC Brain Wellness Program has been a community effort and none of it would be possible without the generous support of our visionary donors whom we will honor at the launch,” said Dr. Cresswell.

The piano, a donation in collaboration between Robin Copas and Cynthia Friesen, has been the physical symbol of the importance of music, the arts and wellbeing at DMCBH. Mary Lou and Al Galbraith were the first to step forward with financial support through the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and thereby kick-starting the launch this fall.

“Together, we’re laying the foundation to develop a broad clinical research program into non-pharmacological interventions for brain health,” said Dr. Taunton.

Launching the Brain Wellness Program on October 5, 2019

Those who attend the launch can look forward to talks from experts in mindfulness, exercise and brain health, music and the mind, and self-management of chronic conditions. As well, guests can expect an introduction to the Jack and Darlene Poole Rehabilitation and Research Gym. Housed in the Chan Gunn Pavilion, the home of Sports Medicine at UBC (just down the road from DMCBH), the state-of-the art gym will serve as the home base for the exercise component of the BC Brain Wellness Program’s activities.

Local music educator Cynthia Friesen, who is passionate about nurturing the connection between music and the mind, will lead music and movement sessions in the lower level atrium at DMCBH this fall.

“We encourage people to register for the classes, but I’d love to have people drop in,” says Friesen. “If someone is here for an appointment and hears the music and wants to join in, we hope they would; it would be in the spirit of the welcoming community we are hoping to nurture at the centre.”

The launch will include introductions to fall programming including yoga classes, mindful art, music and motion, self-management, mindfulness meditation, improv theatre, and exercise for brain health.

While the BC Brain Wellness Program Launch is now sold out, there will be opportunities throughout the year to engage with wellness activities at UBC and in the community. For more information, visit www.bcbrainwellness.ca. To stay informed about activities, to join our mailing list, or to inquire about programming, please email brain.wellness@ubc.ca.