Maggie Leung21 April 2015
Maggie Leung wanted to be a concert pianist but now she combines her musical and neurological skills to help seriously ill children to improve their chance of recovery and enhance their quality of life. The winner of the 2014 MBA Service to the Community Award, she is passionate about raising awareness of the value of music therapy.
UQ Business School Degree: Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Current Job Position: Clinical Leader of Music Therapy Department, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital
Country Of Origin: Hong Kong, China
City Of Residence: Brisbane, QLD
Where are you working now? Describe your current role and what you do.
I lead the Music Therapy Department at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. My clinical work revolves around children in intensive care and palliative care using music to optimise physiological and psychological outcomes. Most of my patients are critically ill and we want to create a safe and familiar musical environment so when they wake up from sedation, they are calm and settled. There is extensive research that supports music improving patients’ heart rate, blood pressure, nutrient intake and respiratory rate.
When preparing children for extubation procedure [removal of the endotracheal tube], I often sing and play their favourite songs on the guitar. This allows us to settle our little patients whilst gently increasing their alertness level, with the aim to decrease their anxiety and maximise the chance for a successful extubation.
We also use music for pain and anxiety management with the aim to reduce the use of pharmacological agents and enhance patients’ participation to improve their sense of empowerment and well-being.
In palliative care, we use music to support children and their families during palliation. There are times when we are asked to sing to a child who is likely to pass away within a short period of time, other times; we may support a teenager who wants to create a legacy and memory through the making of a video or a song for their parents and siblings. The palliative care music therapy is a very special program. It is such an honour to be able to support these amazing children and families during their most challenging time in life.
What is the best part of your job?
To bring the healthy and happy side out of a very sick child.
Not many people’s job is about putting a smile on a child’s face through the creative use of music. I feel very special and honoured to receive the ongoing support from the community through their generous donation.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Getting funding is the most challenging thing in my job. Music therapy is mostly funded by the generous donation from the community and the Children’s Hospital Foundation. It gets stressful at times when you are unsure whether the program can be maintained due to limited and often unpredictable financial support.
Another key challenge is generating awareness of music therapy. Music therapy is not about setting up a cd player or simply pressing ‘play’. It is about using music as a therapeutic tool to maximise patients’ neurological recovery. Every music therapy program is individually tailored with the entire medical, nursing and allied health staff; as well as the patient and family. It has extensive research and evidence to guide our best practice in using music with children who are very unwell.
Can you give us a bit of an overview of your career journey? How did you come about getting to where you are in your career today?
I always wanted to be a concert pianist since I was young. I completed my first degree, major in performance at the QLD Conservatorium. However, I missed being with people and didn’t want to spend six hours a day in a practice room by myself. So, I explored what could I do that would allow a perfect combination of people and music. I also believed that there is more to music and I longed to use it to help people. So in 2012, I completed my Graduate Diploma in Music Therapy (UQ); and this started an exciting and bright career journey as a registered music therapist.
One of my first jobs was to provide music therapy through Playgroup Queensland in working with mothers in jail and their babies. The program aimed to provide positive bonding opportunities and developmental stimulation to mothers and babies through the use of music and play. It was very meaningful program and I loved it.
As my career continued to progress, I decided to do further study and completed the Neurologic Music Therapy training through the Colorado University. This training gave me further insight and knowledge as to how our human brain responds to music. Then in 2013 I started my MBA part time at UQ Business School.
Today, I am one of very few paediatric neurologic music therapists in Australia; and am excited to lead the change in paediatric music therapy as the Clinical Leader (music therapy) at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
When I became a clinical leader I felt that I had a gap in my business knowledge. I didn’t feel confident to manage the budget nor to lead a team within an unpredictable and at times chaotic health environment. I wanted to develop my leadership and business skills that would equip my ability to anticipate, respond and implement best business plan in healthcare.
My passion is to create a sustainable paediatric healthcare system in Australia, where both medical and creative/non-pharmacologic intervention can exist equally to provide a holistic care for our patients and families.
How does the future look for you in your current role/industry?
I believe the future looks very positive! Music therapy is a safe, scientific and therapeutic tool that can maximise children’s overall well-being whilst reducing the financial burden in our health system. I believe as we increase the public and the medical system’s awareness, music therapy will have a bright future in improving our children’s health.
What mentor or inspirational figure has guided or influenced your career/life?
I am fortunate to have many people in my life who love and support me unconditionally. My family are amazing. They show me how to love wisely!
I also take inspiration from Margaret Thatcher, the ‘Iron Lady’. It’s nothing to do with politics - I just love the fact that she is controversial, that she stood up in a man’s world and created change without caring what people thought. She believed in herself and kept going, even though people were trying to knock her down.
What is your motto in life that you try and live by?
My parents used to tell me: ‘Don’t think that you might fall, think that you might fly.’ I have that statement framed on my desk! They encouraged me to take a leap every now and then…
When I have doubts in what I do… I often say to myself “What have I got to lose?”
I don’t want an ordinary life. I want sparkles in every chapter of my journey.
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