Hi Raffi, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do” This is a quote by UCLA Basketball Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden. On 2 occasions while I was high school senior, I served him his Sunday donut which was one of his rare indulgence.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Aside from my day job, which is treating adults and children with allergy, immune dysfunction, and rare disease, I am on the board of the charity I founded called Children’s Music Fund (CMF).
CMF is a 501c3 with a mission of bringing music therapy to sick children and young adults to overcome pain, fear and anxiety. We provide a therapy that goes beyond just listening to music; the individual or the group are engaged in the process and the final healing imagery and sound produced.
20 years ago, we started with instrument donation and music therapy, followed by research to look into how music therapy works. The COVID-19 pandemic posed a huge threat to our existence and continuity. But by turning a disadvantage into an advantage, our board came together to adapt to the times by implementing a telehealth aspect to music therapy. Today we are able to help any child with a chronic illness, anywhere in the country, at virtually any time with telemedicine. We have also discovered some incredible physiological changes that occur during and after a music therapy sessions and continue to publish our findings.
My dream is to help develop music therapy to a point where musical prescriptions can be written – instead of the often used medication prescriptions – to help the sick overcome pain, fear and anxiety, and to empower them to become experts of their own mind, body and soul.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would start out with an oat cappuccino that I make, you know, just to get our day going. Then we would go up Mandeville canyon with my dog Roca. The views from up there span the Pacific Ocean all the way to downtown LA. Afterwards we would grab a bite at Gjusta in Venice, where the food – especially the bread – is divine. Mid-afternoon, the beach starts to sparkle and it’s nice to go down and dip your toes in the water and sit on the sand to decompress the LA life. We would then go visit my Dad and take him to dinner with us to Carnival Restaurant in Sherman Oaks. This is my favorite Lebanese restaurant where the staff are amazing, and where you will find Israelis, Arabs, Armenians, and everything else LA under one roof eating and enjoying life.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve failed when I’ve tried to do the impossible while neglecting the possible and the necessary. In life, as in music, silence or lack of action is fine and should be welcomed when they occur. We often try to do too much, or be too visible and noisy. In fact we are rewarded for this type of behavior in social media and in the workplace. Quiet confidence shows when someone develops into a seasoned leader. And to be a seasoned leader, one must know how to be a great follower. All of these cannot be done without humility and a love of living life to the fullest. One of my proudest achievements is establishing the first charity to bring music therapy to pediatric hospitals and now to sick children everywhere.
In 20 years, Children’s Music Fund has grown from a session with a child battling cancer to a national organization that provides music therapy to sick children and young adults. Our biggest impact is reducing pain, fear and anxiety while researching the physiologic explanations that make music such a great non-medicinal remedy. Sure, it is challenging to fundraise especially in times of economic swings, but in the end there are only two types of music; good music and bad music. We are playing and spreading really good music to help our population heal.
Practice Champions is a feature that debuted in November 2019 and appears in the AAAAI’s Practice Matters newsletter. This feature, which is a collaboration between the AAAAI Office of Practice Management and the Federation of Regional, State and Local Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Societies (RSLAAIS) Assembly, highlights community-based allergists who have made significant contributions to the A/I community. In other words, a Practice Champion is a community-based allergist who is actively working to make a difference in our specialty and improve the practice of A/I for our providers and our patients.
RAFFI TACHDJIAN, MD, MPH, FAAAAI
Raffi Tachdjian, MD, MPH, FAAAAI, is a community allergist in Santa Monica, California, where patients experience expert care in a pleasant office setting. His clinic is also the southern California/Los Angeles referral center for the Hereditary Angioedema Association (HAEA) and their patients. He enjoys caring for patients with other rare diseases as well. His path toward a career in allergy/immunology began through his participation in the AAAAI Chrysalis Project, which showed him the importance of mentorship. In fact, he runs his clinic as a mentorship program for pre-health professional school students, many of whom are his medical assistants. He is extremely proud of his staff and gives each the right to opt-out at any time from being treated like a third-year health professional school student. No one has done so to date, and in fact many have gone on to excellent training programs and residencies, and some are even colleagues. He pays all expenses for staff members to attend any allergy meeting that accepts their submitted abstract.
Dr. Tachdjian is also passionate about the role of music therapy as a complementary modality to enhance the lives of his own and many other patients. He has observed oxygen saturation rise by 5 to 9% without supplemental oxygen in chronic respiratory patients, and how painful procedures become more tolerable with music therapy. He recalls his frustration when as a pediatric resident, he was asked to care for a terminally ill 15-year-old cancer patient, who was a guitar virtuoso. The teen requested a guitar, and none could be found in the entire medical center. Mindful that music can lessen pain, fear and anxiety, as well as improve physiologic parameters in neonates, asthmatics, HAE and other patients, Dr. Tachdjian went on to create and lead the Children’s Music Fund. Now celebrating 20 years, this nonprofit provides music therapy by board-certified music therapists to children with chronic and life-altering diseases, and with the advent of telemedicine has a national outreach. As a clinician, mentor and advocate of music therapy, Dr. Raffi Tachdjian is truly a Practice Champion!
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For more information about Hereditary Angioedema, visit www.haea.org
Los Angeles has made great strides in cleaning the air, but poison still looms overhead, especially over the city’s clogged freeways. And kids are still getting sick. UCLA researchers are creating solutions and making science that can help us all breathe easier.
A view of the heart of Terminal Island in Long Beach, just south of the busy 405 Freeway. A mile away at Hudson Elementary School, one out of every five students has asthma.
One evening last spring, Peter nearly stopped breathing.
He was riding in the car with his mother, April, who was taking the 11-year-old boy back from a visit to the ER for one of his chronic asthma attacks. He seemed to be getting better — and then his throat began to constrict. He began to wheeze loudly. He rolled his head back to get more air.
“That was wrong. ‘He should be better than this by now,’ I remember thinking. I knew something was wrong then,” April recalls. “They had given him some meds and the usual advice, but it was not working.”
She turned the car around and drove her son back to the hospital, where physicians and technicians eventually stabilized Peter and, again, sent him home. “On the way home I realized what the doctors were saying,” she remembers. “He had had a pneumothorax — a partially collapsed lung!”