CHER Practitioner Reflection: Dr. Susan Mandel

CHER Practitioner Reflection: Dr. Susan Mandel

In this article Susan E. Mandel reflects on her work and life as a researcher in music therapy. 

CHER Practitioner Scholar Reflection: Susan E. Mandel, Ph.D., MT-BC

I feel blessed to enjoy a rich personal and professional life.  I love my ongoing work as a music therapy consultant and researcher at Lake Health in northeastern Ohio, but it was through my own doctoral studies at a distance learning university that my world expanded.  As my chair advised, this advanced learning positioned me to exert a broader influence.  I am inspired by a deeply felt desire to help make a difference in other people’s lives.  Valuing the opportunities offered by online learning, I joined the University of Phoenix faculty in 2007, but it was when I connected with the School of Advanced Studies in 2010 that I found my academic home.  I am motivated to practice and encourage high standards of scholarship. 

I was bit by the research bug during my music therapy clinical work with patients enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation.  It was evident that music therapy was effective in helping the patients to manage stress, which was important because stress is a contributing factor to heart disease.  I embarked on a three-year randomized controlled trial (RCT) of music therapy in cardiac rehabilitation that demonstrated significantly decreased anxiety and systolic blood pressure of cardiac rehabilitation patients who participated in music therapy versus patients who did not (Mandel, Hanser, Secic, & Davis, 2007).  The next study was designed to investigate one component of the previous RCT, music assisted relaxation and imagery (Mandel, Hanser, & Ryan, 2010).    Another RCT followed that investigated music therapy with patients enrolled in diabetes education (Mandel, Davis, & Secic, 2013).  The study findings indicated significantly lower systolic blood pressure in diabetes education patients with a co-morbidity of hypertension, and therefore suggested inclusion of music therapy in diabetes education programs.

With awareness of the financial implications of patient satisfaction, as measured by the HCAHPS, on Medicare/ Medicaid reimbursement to hospitals, my co-researchers and I investigated the effect of music therapy on satisfaction of hospital inpatients (Mandel, S. E., Davis, B. A., & Secic, M., 2014) and we found that music therapy patients were significantly more likely to recommend the hospital to others than patients who did not participate in music therapy.  This study laid the foundation for my current research focus.  My co-investigators and I are nearing the finish line of a three-year study of the effect of music therapy on patient satisfaction of adult emergency department patients.  Anecdotal information suggests the positive impact of music therapy on stress and anxiety of ED patients, while the question of patient satisfaction will be addressed when we analyze the quantitative data at the end of this year. 

I have learned that research is more about asking questions than answering them and am eager to determine the questions that arise from the current investigation.  I embrace challenges and look forward to opportunities to collaborate and continue to learn together with SAS colleagues and our students. 



Positioned at the starting line,
Mental muscles tense.
Mind and body synchronized,
I’m poised to commence.
I hear the signal to begin.
Left foot precedes my right.
Senses open on alert,
The future floods with light.

Hurdles are expected.
A few I circumvent.
Encounter those I break through with
Deliberate intent.
I savor the moment
When my being leaps.
Transcendence is ecstatic,
Even when it’s fleet.

At times the path diverges.
Instinct guides my choice.
Maintain motion forward.
Trust my inner voice.
I embrace the challenge,
Expansion of the known.
Mind and body’s trial,
Encourages my growth.

Obstacles are welcomed.
Require me to stretch,
With need for punctuation
Of regular deep breaths.
Epiphany emerges.
To be challenged is my need.
I seek out opportunities
Beyond which to succeed.

The finish line is in my sight.
To cross it on my feet,
Remain focused on each step.
I revel in the reach.
And when I finally cross the line,
I'm present here and yet...
The next path awaits with
New challenges ahead.


To learn more about Dr. Mandel, visit her professional profile at this link:



Mandel, S. E., Davis, B. A., & Secic, M. (2014) Effects of music therapy on patient satisfaction and health-related quality-of-life of hospital inpatients. Hospital Topics, 92(2), 28-35. doi: 10.1080/00185868.2014.906830

Mandel, S. E., Davis, B. A., & Secic, M. (2013). Effects of music therapy and music-assisted relaxation and imagery on health-related outcomes in diabetes education: A feasibility study. The Diabetes Educator, 39(4), 568-581. doi:10.1177/0145721713492216

Mandel, S.E., Hanser, S.B., & Ryan, L.J. (2010). Effects of a music-assisted relaxation and imagery compact disc recording on health-related outcomes in cardiac rehabilitation. Music Therapy Perspectives, 28(1).

Mandel, S. E., Hanser, S. B., Secic, M., & Davis, B. A. (2007). Effects of music therapy on health-related outcomes in cardiac rehabilitation: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Music Therapy, 44(3), 176-197.


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