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UNT pilot program offers free health care for performing artists through March 2023

"We've taken care of basically anyone across the spectrum of performers, dancers, musicians, singers, you name it, we've done it," said Dr. Surve.

FORT WORTH, Texas — When it comes to the sound of music, every note has to be perfect for double bass player Jose Saavedra. He hopes to one day be recognized as one of the world’s best musicians.

And thanks to his doctors, Saavedra is making beautiful music – again.

Saavedra earned his Doctorate in Music Performance as a student at the University of North Texas. He is also an adjunct professor of Double Bass at Midwestern State University and plays section bass with the Amarillo Symphony.

A recent opera performance went well, but Saavedra’s bicycle ride home had an unexpected ending.

“Opera performances are really long,” Saavedra said. "So, it was past midnight. I had to go back to my home. It was raining. I fell over my bicycle, and I sprained these bones in my hand."

During a post-treatment follow-up visit, Saavedra showed Dr. Yein Lee more of his progress. His visit to the Performing Arts Medicine Clinic, which specializes in the prevention and management of unique injuries commonly found among artists, is part of a pilot program at UNT.

This specialty clinic's goal is to take care of the idea of "whole health" emphasized by the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth, where doctors are able to treat any and all performing artists.  

What's even more impressive? 

"This is a free clinic for any kind of performing artist. So, if you are a performer of any kind, any age, then you can come and see us and our physicians at this clinic for free," said Lee.

The first-of-its-kind free clinic runs through the month of March. That means any artists can schedule an appointment for no-cost treatment for any illness.

"Well, so performing artists, most performing artists, they struggle with, first of all, access to health care,” Lee said. "And also they struggle with the cost of health care. Performing artists don't make a ton of money. When they are injured, they can come to see our doctors."

Program co-founder Dr. Sajid Surve is ready to take care of any performing artist who needs medical attention.

Surve is an artist himself and is aware of the struggles they face when it comes to health care.

"We've taken care of basically anyone across the spectrum of performers, dancers, musicians, singers, you name it, we've done it," said Surve.

The physicians not only treat the injury, but they also treat every aspect of the patient, looking at outside stressors and other factors that increase the risk of injuries in their artistry. 

The Performing Arts Medicine Clinic is the largest of its kind in DFW. The clinic provides contracted services to Texas Ballet Theatre and the UNT College of Music and has collaborated with numerous areas performing arts groups, including the TCU Department of Dance, the International Mimir Festival, the Fort Worth Opera, and the Van Cliburn competition.

The free clinic is possible thanks to a private donor and supporter of the arts. Surve hopes word spreads throughout DFW about the clinic being open to all artists. One of the goals is to expand the pilot program beyond the March deadline if possible.

Saavedra is convinced without the doctors at the Performing Artists Medicine Clinic he would not have gotten back on track playing the double bass so fast. Now, they're even teaching him better techniques so that he doesn't reinjure himself.

The clinic is house at HSC in Fort Worth. Performing artists interested in scheduling an appointment can call 817-735-2455.  

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