Next up in the Meet Our Providers series is Dr. John J. Hutchings – resident NOMC psychiatrist, practicing GI, musician and active New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation Board Member.
Dr. Hutchings assumed the role of the Director of Psychiatric Services for the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic in 2010. Since then, he has been instrumental in establishing and managing effective pathways for psychological counseling as well as establishing collaboration with Odyssey House Louisiana for substance detoxification/rehabilitation and addiction treatment.
Dr. Hutchings was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about his practice and what motivates him to give back to the local music community.
You’re both a practicing Gastroenterologist and Psychiatrist- can you tell us a little bit about that?
I wanted to do something where I could interact with patients on a more global scale so I did Medicine and Psychiatry as a combined residency after coming out of medical school. I ultimately ended up doing Gastroenterology because there’s a lot of overlap between Psychiatric issues and GI issues. A lot of people express their emotional distress through their bowels, so that’s something that interested me. It became a very specialized area of care.
In addition, I still wanted to have an opportunity to practice bread & butter Psychiatry and luckily that opportunity came available through the Musicians’ Clinic a few years ago.
Its nice to be able to switch gears and change the focus. It keeps me fresh and engaged in my different professions. It’s nice also to have the ability to cross boundaries and help patients navigate. What often happens is people get broken down into organ systems (for instance, you go see the GI doctor and the only thing they are focused on is the GI tract) instead of evaluated as a whole, but people can’t be broken down into components, people are people. If you don’t consider that things going on with the body can have an emotional effect and vice versa, then you’re kind of ‘missing the forest because of the trees’ so to speak.
Can you speak to any common issues or afflictions that you see among your musician patients?
I believe there are a lot of mood issues that go along with being an artist. There’s a common pathway between artistic expression and emotional lability. A lot of people in the arts are very talented and very expressive, but sometimes have issues or have had issues in the past that have made them more susceptible to mental illness.
The major things that we treat are depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. Despite being performers, a lot of patients have issues with anxiety in their everyday life. For instance, they feel fantastic when performing on stage but in ordinary social situations or in daily life they can have difficulty with controlling anxiety and depression. Because of this, a lot of patients tend to self medicate with substances.
There’s a lot of substance use/abuse issues within the arts community that confounds both medical and emotional health so that’s something we try to focus on at the Musicians’ Clinic. Both Catherine [Lasperches, LNP] and I try to get patients to understand the fact that substance use (such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc.) can have both a negative physical AND emotional toll.
Any tips for ways that patients can engage in self care?
- Having a good understanding of how substances play into mood disorders and that you don’t have to necessarily augment your emotional state to play good music. You can play good music without the aid of drugs or alcohol!
- Realizing that physical activity and a balanced diet is super important to overall physical and emotional well-being.
- Practicing good sleep hygiene. Healthy sleep is incredibly important to overall well-being, so teaching patients to be more engaged with self-awareness and the fact that they need the appropriate amount of sleep [suggested 7-8 hrs per night]. Most musicians are up all hours of the night gigging and then they try to get up and do normal activities throughout the day- so good sleep hygiene and being sure to get enough rest is very important.
What do you enjoy most about working with the Musicians’ Clinic ?
It’s special because there are few places in the country where there’s a focus on helping the cultural foundation of the city. When the Bultmans first put this clinic together [with the help of LSU Health and other community partners], I think it was a groundbreaking way to take care of people so I want to continue that work with them. I think what they’ve created is very inspirational and it’s made a huge impact on the well-being of our local culture bearers.The arts and music scene here in New Orleans is probably the best in North America if not the best in the world, and it’s what makes this city super unique. It’s really important to me to be of service to the people who’ve made such a positive impact on my life.
I also enjoy being a part of the Musicians’ Clinic & Assistance Foundation because in addition to being a doctor, I’m personally a musician. I’m a saxophonist and play regularly with a couple of local bands.
Medical Director of Endoscopy – University Medical Center New Orleans
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Family Medicine
Section of Gastroenterology
Appointments: (504) 412-1366
Read more from the NOMC’s Meet Our Providers Series: