News Release

New Walther Chair in Supportive Oncology to focus on music therapy for cancer patients

Business Announcement

Indiana University School of Medicine

INDIANAPOLIS—Indiana University School of Medicine has named Sheri Robb, PhD, a Walther Professor of Supportive Oncology. This is one of five endowed positions to develop a supportive oncology program that encompasses research and patient care.

Robb is a nationally renowned music therapy researcher, a professor at the IU School of Nursing and an Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher. Her research focuses on supportive care needs of children and adolescents with cancer and their families. She has held 15 years of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her work to develop and test music-based interventions to reduce symptom distress and improve health outcomes.

“My motivation for becoming a research scientist was to advance research in the emerging field of music therapy—to better understand how and for whom specific interventions work and to increase access to those services,” Robb said. “As a Walther Professor of Supportive Oncology, I will have the opportunity to accelerate and advance research in music and health in exponential ways, with the goal of creating evidence-based and culturally meaningful programs of care to improve the health and well-being of all patients with cancer and their families.”

The Walther Professor of Supportive Oncology was established by the transformative $14 million gift to IU School of Medicine from the Walther Cancer Foundation. In April, Shelley Johns, PsyD, ABPP, was named the Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology.

Supportive oncology goes beyond standard therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and seeks to care for a patient’s overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

The supportive oncology program intends to influence care for cancer patients and their families throughout Indiana and the country by providing expertise and best practices for other health systems to model, with particular attention to the underserved.

“Supportive oncology is a broad umbrella for care directed toward the patient and not just the cancer. Advancing the research and provision of music therapy for patients at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center provides a unique opportunity for Hoosiers living with cancer,” said James Cleary, MD, professor of medicine and Walther Senior Chair in Supportive Oncology at IU School of Medicine.

Robb currently holds a $2 million NIH grant to lead a study on how music and play interventions can reduce stress, improve survivorship and boost the immune system in children ages 3-8 during cancer treatments. Because child and parent distress are interrelated, researchers are aiming to reduce stress levels in both the patient and caregivers.

As a national leader in music therapy, Robb is part of the NIH and National Endowment for the Art’s Sound Health Network multidisciplinary team to advance research in music and health. Robb is also working with a group of investigators to improve reporting quality and rigor of music intervention research.

“Dr. Robb’s impact on patients and their families is remarkable. She has a gift for translating research into diverse, patient-centered programs that make the journey through cancer diagnosis and treatment more bearable. She is an asset to our team of nurse researchers studying oncology,” said Robin Newhouse, dean of IU School of Nursing.

“The appointment of Dr. Robb and the ongoing investment in her research is exceptionally important. This clearly will advance efforts to establish a premiere supportive oncology program at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and IU School of Medicine," said Tom Grein, president and CEO, Walther Cancer Foundation.

“Dr. Robb is truly one of the premier researchers in music therapy in the country. This support from the Walther Cancer Foundation is both important recognition of the work she has done and will greatly enhance her research going forward," said Greg A. Sachs, MD, director, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, IU School of Medicine.


About IU School of Medicine

IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

About IU School of Nursing

The Indiana University School of Nursing was established in 1914 with the opening of Long Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. The school unites into a core structure with three locations in Bloomington, Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Fort Wayne. Over 22,500 alumni across the globe are empowered to be leaders in clinical practice, research, education, and innovation. Both the master’s and DNP programs were named to the 2022 U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate Nursing Schools. The National League for Nursing has designated the School as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education in two areas. Academic programs range from three options in the undergraduate program, nine tracks in the master’s program, post-master’s options, a post-masters DNP, and a PhD in clinical nursing science or health systems. The school boasts a robust program of research focused on quality of life in chronic illness, nursing education, and cancer prevention and control.

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