Singer with sore throat? Dancer with damaged knee? Actor with active infection? You’re all in luck—the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth is offering free health care for performing artists through late April.
Funded by an anonymous donor, the free clinic is being provided by UNT HSC’s Performing Arts Medicine Clinic, whose on-site physicians treat dancers, actors, vocalists, and instrumentalists of all ages and skill levels. The physicians work with artists to prevent injuries, manage pain, and diagnose chronic conditions. To improve outcomes, they use osteopathic manipulation treatment, administer medical acupuncture, and more.
The free, appointment-only event “is designed for uninsured performers or those who have high insurance deductibles and are too ill or injured to ply their craft,” UNT HSC says.
Physicians with performing arts talent
Dr. Yein Lee, a physician at the Performing Arts Medicine Clinic, knows where performing artists are coming from: She used to be a professional violinist herself.
“As most people know, performing artists don’t have a whole lot of finances that are stable,” Lee said in a statement. “It’s really an underserved population. A lot of them are underinsured or uninsured, and when they’re injured, their economic situation becomes more dire. And we know this because we see them day to day.”
Helping a flute player keep fluttering
In one example of how the clinic works with performing artists, Dr. Lee treated Maria Gabriela Alvarado, a Venezuelan-born flute player and UNT graduate, when a shoulder problem looked like it would derail her career.
Lee diagnosed her with a rare genetic disorder, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome—a condition affecting connective tissues—and set her on a course of treatment that enabled her to continue playing. Today, Alvarado plays in a chamber music group that performs for disadvantaged youth.
Performing artists have injury concerns just like athletes do
As any Cowboys fan can tell you, it’s common for athletes to deal with job-related injuries that require medical care. The same is true for performing artists, says Dr. Sajid Surve, co-director of UNT HSC’s Texas Center for Performing Arts Health, which was formed through a UNT and HSC partnership in 1999.
“Athletes are highly specialized, take years to perfect their craft and often suffer from injuries due to the demands placed on their bodies,” Dr. Surve, a trained musician and vocalist himself, said in a statement. “Performing artists have all the same needs and concerns, but very few medical professionals have the understanding and expertise to provide care to this population. Our free clinic was created to deliver specialized care to performing artists of all disciplines and skill levels.”
Connections with Fort Worth Opera, Texas Ballet Theatre, Van Cliburn competition and more
Texas Ballet Theatre and the UNT College of Music both have contracts for services with The Performing Arts Medicine Clinic. The clinic has also collaborated with numerous other performing arts groups including the Fort Worth Opera, the Van Cliburn competition, the TCU Department of Dance, and the International Mimir Festival.
Seeking to grow the program
Dr. Surve has been co-director of TCPAH since he joined HSC in 2014. In 2019, he partnered with Dr. Lee to create the world’s first Performing Arts Medicine physician fellowship, with Dr. James Aston as its first fellow, HSC said.
Surve is now looking to grow the program further, by continuing to train physicians in “the art and science” of performing arts medicine.
Seeing and treating ‘the whole person’
Jessica Rangel, HSC’s executive vice president of health systems, says knowing that many local performing artists struggle with limited incomes and unique injuries drove HSC to offer the free clinic services through late April.
“As performing artists themselves, our physicians in this clinic are uniquely trained and qualified to address these needs,” Rangel added. “We know the cost of health care is a struggle for many in our community. This free clinic is specially designed to help any performers—dancers, musicians, singers, to name just a few. This team of clinicians address not just medical needs, but understand the stress and struggle associated with each individual’s artistry. We see the whole person and address the whole person, not just the injury.”
Scheduling an appointment
The free health care clinic for performing artists is being offered at HSC’s Health Pavilion at 855 Montgomery Street in Fort Worth. To schedule an appointment, call 817-735-2455.
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