photo of Mary Rorro '91

In tune with patients

By Alicia Bessette

Some well-guided teens decide on their future career paths during high school. Mary Rorro ’91, an aspiring psychiatrist, was one of those fortunate few. Inspired by her late father, a physician, Rorro would spend hours flipping through his medical journals during her high school years. One night she stumbled upon an article describing a field that would be a perfect professional match for her someday, one that would allow her to fulfill her passion for music while appealing to her more left-brained, quantitative senses: the field of arts medicine.

Arts medicine physicians treat muscle and nerve injuries as well as psychological problems from which actors, dancers, musicians, and other artists and performers suffer. Thus those best suited for the field are artists or performers themselves. Rorro fits that bill. A violinist and violist, she received Bryn Mawr’s first Performing Arts Prize awarded upon graduation.

It’s been a long road to get where she is now, the chief administrative psychiatric resident at Harvard Medical School. Rorro tailored her Bryn Mawr years toward the field of arts medicine, majoring in music and minoring in biology. Attending the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford informed her decision to pursue psychiatry, which “appeals to my sense of the humanities,” said Rorro. “I enjoy talking with patients one on one, learning more about them and their lives. To help someone in a personal way is very rewarding to me.” Rorro is eager to educate musicians and their teachers on preventative strategies. “Sometimes the students are taught improper technique, which may lead to overuse syndrome. They practice too hard for too long. And if they’re not educated about that early, problems can exacerbate.”

In addition to music and medicine, Rorro’s other passion is leadership. She currently serves on the board of the American Association of Psychiatric Administrators and has been involved in several other professional organizations. “It’s always a challenge to build consensus and manage group dynamics,” she said. The International Arts Medicine Association (IAMA) offered Rorro her first brush with leadership in the field of arts medicine, when in the early ’90s she became its first student chair and student representative to the board of directors. Her most recent project in affiliation with IAMA has been to introduce arts medicine to the curricula in medical schools, where it is generally offered as a short-term course.

Rorro will complete her residency in June and then plans to enter a fellowship in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Music will be a component of whatever I do in the future,” she adds. “I’ve seen people and patients respond in a variety of settings—the psychological and emotional impact of music is really dramatic.”

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