Personal Story

A circular photo of Haleigh Black playing the violin overlaying a blue and white background.

Where are you from and when did you get started in music?

I’m from Cullman, Alabama, where I attended my first violin concert at the age of three. My mom says that I sat entranced throughout the whole concert, and when she said it was time to leave, I cried because I wanted to play the violin. That’s when I started taking lessons.

How long have you been with UAB Arts in Medicine?

I’ve been an artist in residence with UAB Arts in Medicine (AIM) since the end of 2019.

What is your role with UAB Arts in Medicine?

I perform in public spaces at UAB Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and throughout the Birmingham community. I also lead group self-care workshops and conduct research to further the field of arts and health. My goal is to provide a positive distraction for patients, guests and staff.

What are some of your favorite things about working with them?

Working with UAB AIM has been incredibly fulfilling because I get to witness how music can improve people’s moods and overall well-being. It also gives me many opportunities to perform calming, uplifting music, which in turn leaves me feeling calm and uplifted.

You’re a frequent guest in NCHPAD Coffee Club. What have been your takeaways from your appearances?

I have had the pleasure of being a guest in the Coffee Club twice this year, leading musical activities centered around self-care. An hour flies by in the company of the responsive, approachable and kind members of the Coffee Club. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and supportive. At the end of my last session, one attendee said, “Thank you for reminding me to sing and listen to music. I feel brighter than I did an hour ago. I’ll be singing for the rest of the day!” The shared enthusiasm for singing and participating in meaningful discussions reflects the strong sense of community cultivated within the Coffee Club.

What music would you recommend to anyone for rest and relaxation?

For rest and relaxation, I recommend listening to music you enjoy that has a slow tempo and a simple melody. After I perform the jazz standards, “La Vie En Rose,” “Moon River,” “Skylark,” “What a Wonderful World” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” people have said that it was very calming, so if you are searching for relaxing music, perhaps you could give those a try. See if you are more relaxed by recordings with lyrics or instrumental arrangements without lyrics.

What music helps you relieve stress?

Music that helps me relieve stress includes instrumental songs like Lionel Loueke’s “Vi Gnin,” Pat Metheny’s arrangement of “And I Love Her,” and Claude Debussy’s “Rêverie, L. 68.” Sometimes, I just listen to low, humming drones or gentle rain sounds for relaxation which can be found on audio streaming services or online sound generators like

What does self-care mean to you?

To me, self-care means prioritizing things that help me recharge, relax and maintain a healthy, happy life. This includes getting enough sleep, eating food that nourishes my body, exercising, playing music, spending time with friends and family, and reminding myself often of everything that there is to be grateful for.

What do you think are some of the mental health benefits of playing or listening to music?

Listening to music that we enjoy boosts positive emotions through the reward centers of the brain, giving us a sense of being cared for. Humans have a long history of using music to cope with challenges, express emotions and seek comfort. Singing or playing music in a group can provide a sense of connection. Singing has been shown to improve speech. Holding an instrument and moving to create sounds can increase your ability to grab and hold items throughout the day to perform daily tasks like brushing your teeth or feeding yourself. Learning songs can improve sequencing and recall. Simply listening to music can reduce stress and anxiety, distract us from pain and sometimes decrease the need for drugs.

Do you have any self-care tips that involve music? (ex. Making a playlist, humming, getting active while listening to music, etc.)

Exercise to the beat of a song to help you stay motivated and to make the activity more fun. Sing more often. Learning an instrument or improving your vocal skills can be a rewarding form of self-care. Create personalized playlists that you can listen to when you want to relax or boost your mood. Practice mindfulness or meditation with soft, soothing instrumental music for relaxation. If possible, consider joining a choir, band or music group; this can provide a sense of community.

What is your favorite song to play on the violin?

Lately, I enjoy playing and improvising over the bossa nova jazz standard, “Wave,” by Antônio Carlos Jobim.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Have they impacted your style and sound?

Some of my biggest musical influences are Bela Fleck, Tessa Lark, Pat Metheny and Shakti. They have led me to explore a diverse variety of musical styles. Experiencing their live concerts has changed the way I play, the way I carry myself and the way I think about performing. Their influence has taught me the value of having fun on stage, connecting with an audience, playing music as an offering and embracing the ongoing journey of understanding music.

How can people learn more about your music?

I am in the process of recording a duo album with guitarist and composer Davis Little. Feel free to explore our musical journey on Instagram at @davisandhaleigh and connect with me on Facebook as Haleigh Black or on Instagram as @haleighblackviolin to stay updated on new releases and musical content.

Lynn Julian

In this week’s Participant Spotlight, we chatted with Lynn Julian. Lynn shared how she connected with NCHPAD, her favorite programs, and some of the amazing work she’s doing as a patient experience consultant!

Tell us about yourself.

I’m proud to be an award-winning speaker and patient consultant, an author in nine books and of 100+ articles (, a Boston Actress at ( and a Pop Superhero on 30+ CDs ( Connect with me on social media @LynnJulian007!

I’m also a patient experience consultant with corporations, foundations, researchers, politicians, and international leaders to form an accurate understanding of chronic illness, rare disease, and life with disability.

I live in Boston, Massachusetts, with my medical alert service dog, Dr. Smallz, and I love to connect with people on social at @lynnjulian007 @DrSmallzMD!

When did you connect with NCHPAD? 

I was referred to NCHPAD by Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where I completed some of my physical, vestibular, and occupational therapy as an injured survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

What NCHPAD programs have you been part of?

So far, I’ve benefited from completing the MENTOR program and still enjoy participating in Coffee Club!

What did you like about the programs? 

I love that the MENTOR program addresses all aspects of good health: mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and resilience. It was a sweet surprise when a huge box of home exercise equipment arrived at my door – for me to keep – and all for free. Money is not an excuse not to exercise when the equipment is free!

Tell us why you would recommend a NCHPAD program or NCHPAD Connect to someone else.

I’d highly recommend NCHPAD Connect to my family, friends, and support group members because I’ve personally benefited so much from their programs already.

What brings you joy?

It’s the simple things in life that bring me joy: friends, food, music, movies, art, and most of all, my medical alert service dog, Dr. Smallz.

Too often, we take our blessings for granted as if they are rights rather than privileges. We complain so easily but are less quick to complement. We need to celebrate the small stuff and always be grateful. That is the way to happiness!

What else would you like us to know? 

In addition to my other work, in my “free time,” I’m also an advocate, activist, ambassador, speaker, and consultant. My daily struggles with chronic conditions lead me to volunteer as an Advisory Board Member of several international organizations: Strength To Strength (Patient Advisory Council), US Pain Foundation (Massachusetts Ambassador), American Migraine Foundation (Ambassador), Wego Health (Migraine Expert), Alliance for  Headache Disorders Advocacy (Team Leader, Headache On The Hill); Marfan Foundation, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Ambassador/Moderator), Rare Disease Legislative Advocate (Everylife Foundation), Rare Complain Program (Global Genes), Leaftopia (Director of Patient Advocacy), and Ravel.Health & Center For Lyme Action (Ambassador/Team Leader). The main message I want to promote is one of Inspiration and Hope.

How has this impacted your life? Is there anything you’ve learned from NCHPAD that has impacted your life?

Coffee Club has taught me that it’s never too late to change yourself, your mind, and your body. Every day is a new chance to do better and be the change you wish to see in the world!

Is there a particular person you’d like to give a shoutout, like an instructor, health coach, etc?

Haley Brown brightened every morning in the MENTOR program with her spirited energy and encouragement. She had me – and the whole group – looking forward to exercising. Now THAT is a great mentor!

Stephanie Ward also does an exceptional job leading Coffee Club. She wakes us up gently, makes us all feel seen and heard, and even sings to us to start our day. Love that smile!

MENTOR Spotlight

MENTOR is NCHPAD’s 8-week program focused on physical, mental and emotional health for individuals with an existing disability or a recent diagnosis. We recently sat down with MENTOR participant Quatrina Thurmon, who shared what she loved about the program and how it helped improve every aspect of her life.

Watch her story or continue reading below the video.

“MENTOR taught me how to live life again, because I’ve been through so much. I’ve had a traumatic brain injury, two open heart surgeries, two heart attacks and two strokes. To go through what I’ve been through recently with a bunch of deaths in my family – close loved ones – to taking care of my mom, and also trying to take care of myself, too. It’s been a journey, but I’m still here, I’m still pushing and I’m still striving. And I can truly say that being in MENTOR has really helped me get focus and stay focused. But at the end of the day, I’m me!

MENTOR taught me how to redirect my life because MENTOR is about mindfulness. It’s about your emotions. It’s about nutrition, getting myself back to exercising, getting myself back to sitting down and thinking – and thinking about what I’m thinking about. With the mindfulness, it helped me to stay focused and helped me to think about who I am and what I am. It helped me to really get to know myself even better.

And I had to be committed to the exercise program. And at first I didn’t want to do it, but because of my commitment to the program, I had to do it which helped me out in the long run.

The nutrition part taught me how to really read the labels and know the good carbs from the bad carbs. Because, you know, all the time we think we are cooking healthy, but we’re not cooking and eating healthy, the right way.

Overall, again, like I said, I learned how to love me. It’s very important to love yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect someone else to love you? And that’s what’s wrong with the world today. We don’t have enough love.

I really would recommend the MENTOR program to anyone that’s willing to go through it. At first, I was very hesitant, and I thought it was very time consuming. But as I got into it, and I realized it was to help me. And I realized that people who were in the club with me, we shared a lot of testimonies and stuff, I realized it helped them, too.

So if you have the opportunity to get into MENTOR, run for it. Run for it because it’s going to help you in the long run. It’s going to help you in every aspect of your life: mentally, socially, physically, emotionally, it’s going to help you.”


Ready to join MENTOR? Have questions?
Give us a call at 866-866-8896 or email us at

How do you like to spend time in nature? National Trails Day

June 3 is National Trails Day, the “nationwide movement to give back to trails and build a world where everyone feels welcome and has access to enjoy the great outdoors,” according to the American Hiking Society.

Recently, our friend Dr. Scott Crawford shared how he was able to enjoy some time in nature on a hike – thanks to a wheelchair-accessible trail at the Mississippi Agriculture Museum in Jackson, Miss. The accessible route took him through the woods to enjoy an overlook of Eubanks Creek. “I was there for a meeting, but arrived early to ‘explore,’” said Dr. Crawford. “People with mobility limitations rarely get out in nature, so I try to savor every opportunity I get.”

Images by Dr. Scott Crawford

Outdoor time in nature is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It’s also one of 11 evidence-based elements of health that our MENTOR program is based on. Each element is part of the acronym MY SCORECARD: Mindfulness, Your spirit, Self-care, Core Values, Outdoor time in nature, Relationship building, Exercise, Contribution to others, Arts and leisure, Rest and relaxation, and Diet. In the MENTOR program, our expert health coaches and instructors combine these elements through personalized instruction and resources to help you reach your health goals – at no cost to you.

Learn more about the MENTOR program here, or reach us at or 866-866-8896 to sign up.

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NCHPAD Connect, our online portal, houses a growing community of classes and specialty programs for people with mobility limitations. These virtual programs can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and are tailored specifically for each individual participant.

“Joining NCHPAD Connect is easy,” says participant Deanna Deschenes, who lives with multiple sclerosis. “The programs help with your mind, body and soul, and help you become a more whole human being.”

Watch as Deanna Deschenes shares how to sign up – and what to expect after you do.

How to sign up

  • Fill out this quick survey.
  • A NCHPAD Call Center employee will reach out to learn more about your specific goals and needs.
  • We’ll connect you to free, online courses and resources.

What you’ll gain access to

  • Free, online adapted programs like MENTOR.
  • Wellness boxes for each adapted program you join.
  • NCHPAD Coffee Club along with free coffee and snacks delivered right to your door.
  • More new specialty programs we’re developing to meet your specific goals and needs.

“I’ve participated in several of these specialty programs, and I’ve walked away from each and every one of them with something positive – something to add to my toolbox, something that helps me be a better me,” Deanna said.

Join NCHPAD Connect today, or email if you have any questions.