HSC’s Performing Arts Medicine offers free clinic
A doctor told flutist Maria Gabriela Alvarado that she would have to give up her passion. Playing her instrument for long stretches caused her shoulder to pop out of its socket and her ribs to dislocate.
The University of North Texas graduate’s life changed when she visited Dr. Yein Lee, a physician at HSC Health, the clinical practice of The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Lee diagnosed Alvarado with a rare genetic disorder — Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which affects connective tissue — and set her down a path that allowed her to continue honing her craft. Alvarado now plays in a chamber music group that performs for disadvantaged youth.
Other performers soon will be able to receive the same care that made such a difference in Alvarado’s life. From January to late April, HSC Health will be hosting a free clinic available to performers of all ages and skill levels. The appointment-only event is designed for uninsured performers or those who have high insurance deductibles and are too ill or injured to practice their craft.
“There’s no question Dr. Lee is the reason I’m still playing my instrument,” said Alvarado, who was born in Venezuela. “She suggested ways I could adjust my playing style so that it created less stress on my shoulder; taught me different stretches to do before, during and after playing; and showed me ways to recover from pain.”
Lee is a part of the Performing Arts Medicine team, specializing in the treatment of musicians, vocalists and dancers. The on-site physicians help artists prevent injuries and manage pain. They also diagnose chronic conditions, use osteopathic manipulation treatment, administer medical acupuncture and more.
“As most people know, performing artists don’t have a whole lot of finances that are stable,” said Lee, who is also an accomplished violinist. “It’s really an underserved population. A lot of them are underinsured or uninsured, and when they’re injured, their economic situation becomes direr. And we know this because we see them day to day.”
In 1999, UNT and HSC partnered to form what is now known as the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health. The Performing Arts Medicine Clinic was born out of this partnership.
Dr. Sajid Surve has been co-director of TCPAH since 2014 when he joined HSC. Surve is now seeking to grow the program and continue training physicians in the art and science of performing arts medicine.
“Athletes are highly specialized, take years to perfect their craft and often suffer from injuries because of the demands placed on their bodies,” said Surve, who is also a trained musician and vocalist. “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.”
The Performing Arts Medicine Clinic is the largest and most experienced practice in North Texas. The clinic provides contracted services to Texas Ballet Theatre and the UNT College of Music. It also has collaborated with numerous area performing arts groups, including the Texas Christian University Department of Dance, International Mimir Festival, Fort Worth Opera and the Van Cliburn competition.
The free clinic is being funded by an anonymous donor, with services provided at the HSC Health Pavilion.
“At HSC, we care deeply about our community,” said Jessica Rangel, HSC’s executive vice president of health systems. “Knowing that many of our performing artists struggle with limited incomes and unique injuries has driven us to offer this free clinic.
“As performing artists themselves, our physicians in this clinic are uniquely trained and qualified to address these needs. 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 and singers, to name just a few. This team of clinicians addresses not only medical needs but also understands the stress and struggle associated with each individual’s artistry. We see the whole person and address the whole person, not just the injury.”
Performers in need of medical care may call 817-735-2455 to schedule an appointment for the free clinic.