May 2, 1998: CBS’s 60 MINUTES anchor, Ed Bradley, serves as the MC at the dedication of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic at LSU Health Sciences Center, 2020 Gravier St., featuring keynote speaker US Senator John Breaux and music by the Algiers Brass Band.
Dedicated on May 2, 1998, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic (NOMC) became the first such medical initiative in the United States, addressing the health care needs of musicians and artists, as well as their families, whether they are insured, underinsured or uninsured.
Not only do we strive to affect an agenda of wellness in our musician patient population, we encourage our musicians and culture bearers to become advocates for early detection, prevention, and treatment for others facing the same risks.
(ABOVE) NOMC Medical Director Dr. Cathi Fontenot, LSUHSC Department of Comprehensive Medicine, counsels New Orleans R&B legend Ernie K-Doe and wife Antoinette about his alcohol-induced hepatitis.
(BELOW) Dr. Cathi Fontenot examines an x-ray with Carol Schwaner, FNP at the Musicians’ Clinic.
As the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans has remained a cultural mecca for centuries. Local musicians are a vital resource to New Orleans in terms of its economic viability and vibrant cultural identity. Performers entertain close to 10 million visitors each year. Yet even before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005 many musicians already suffered perpetual health inequities as a result of limited access to affordable medical and social services.
In fact, the story of New Orleans musicians has too often been one of tragic, premature death from preventable causes (take for example Buddy Bolden and James Booker). This illustrates the problem that many American performers face: health inequity. With few exceptions, New Orleans musicians are independent contractors. While the city’s tradition-bearers are celebrated the world over, at home most live hand-to-mouth, outside mainstream social and economic systems. Musicians rarely benefit from employee benefits (in particular health insurance) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not regulate their working environment.
Partnered with the LSU Health Network, the NOMC became a local response to the challenging reality that the majority of New Orleans musicians and tradition bearers existed outside of the healthcare system. From its promise to provide culturally competent medical services to a unique group of New Orleans’ entertainers and performers, the NOMC has evolved its patient base from a group unaccustomed to receiving routine medical care to more than 2600 + patients who engage in preventative health.
NEW ORLEANS MUSICIANS’ ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION
Gig Fund event, 2008. The NOMAF Gig Fund partnered with local organizations to provide music for community members and more paying gigs for musicians.
The New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation (NOMAF) emerged in 2007, following the need to expand the NOMC’s definition of health care after the devastating floods of Hurricane Katrina. As a response to the needs of NOMC patients and the local music community, NOMAF was founded as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to provide the administrative and fundraising services needed to support the primary medical care provided by the NOMC.
NOMAF’s board is made up of dedicated community health advocates and NOMC founders who understand that only 30% of health care takes place in the clinic. Some of NOMAF’s programing has included creating economic opportunities for musicians through its NOMAF Gig Fund (completed in 2015): raising awareness for noise-induced hearing loss during practice, on stage, at festivals, and in local venues, through the NOMAF Save New Orleans Sounds Program; You Got This, mental health self-care; providing a one-time benevolent payment for musicians facing extreme hardship through The NOMAF Emergency Fund; hosting community wellness events in and around New Orleans; and our Makin’ Groceries program.
THE FOUNDING OF THE NEW ORLEANS MUSICIANS’ CLINIC TIMELINE
APRIL 26, 1996
Dr. Jack McConnell (far right) with the band Phish
Phish performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Dr. Jack McConnell, a distinguished figure in American medicine, and founder of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) is backstage to cheer on his son, Page, the keyboard player in the iconic band. Later that evening, Dr. McConnell, a traditional Jazz aficionado, is invited on stage at the Palm Court Jazz café to perform “Bill Bailey, Won’t you Please Come Home” with the house band. It sparks his inspiration to create an innovative healthcare resource for musicians in the birth city of American music.
Dr. McConnell fortuitously meets Sybil Morial, mother of New Orleans’ Mayor Marc Morial, at a social gathering in Hilton Head, SC where they discuss the concept of health care for New Orleans’ musicians.
Sybil Morial, former First Lady of New Orleans, with New Orleans Fire Department’s Superintendent, Warren McDaniels
LSUHSC Musicians’ Clinic Planning Committee: Dr. Rob Marier, Dean of LSU Medical School; Dr. Terri Fontham, future Dean of LSU School of Public Health; Dr. Cathi Fontenot, Musicians’ Clinic Medical Director and LSUHN Comp. Med. Section Head
Dr. McConnell gains the support of Dr. Mervin Trail, LSUHSC Chancellor and president of the Greater New Orleans Tourist and Convention Commission. A coalition of local musician advocates and LSUHSC physicians form a planning committee to create medical services for the estimated 3,000+ New Orleans’ musicians and culture bearers. The Union of New Orleans Musicians AFM Local 174-496; the LSU Dental School; the LSU and Loyola Nursing Schools; and the Tulane School of Medicine. Two of the USA’s largest music festivals; The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and French Quarter Fest, offer support. Joining LSUHSC in providing resources for NOMC patients were the Daughters of Charity of New Orleans, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, and WWOZ, locally, and internationally, the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).
Musicians’ Clinic Task Force announces its concept for the NOMC through a town hall meeting at Gallier Hal and conducts a needs assessment of local performers to establish the clinic’s scope of services. Within this time, LSUHSC Fdn. becomes NOMC’s fiscal agent, and the faculty group practice of the LSU Medical School, LSUHN, becomes the home of the Musicians’ Clinic.
MAY 2, 1998
The NOMC opens its first physical location on the 5th floor of the LSUHN located at 2020 Gravier Street, within the downtown medical complex. The Mayor of New Orleans, Marc Morial, designates this day as “New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic Day.” The clinic was dedicated with an all-day extravaganza: a champagne jazz brunch attended by LSUHSC officials and leaders in the world of music, social welfare and politics, entertainment by local gospel singers and Mardi Gras Indians, a dedication by U.S. Senator John Breaux, and many others. All the local network affiliates – ABC, CBS, and NBC – covered the grand opening. The story also appeared on CNN interactive, AP wire story, the Boston Globe and the LA Times. CBS’s 60 MINUTES anchor, Ed Bradley, was in attendance as one of the Musicians’ Clinic’s first supporters.
Dr. William “Bill” Jenkins, LSU Chancellor, speaks at the NOMC dedication ceremony on May 1, 1998.
Dr. Suanna Connick Jamison, Harry Connick Sr., Charlotte Connick (LSU Dental School), Dr. Cathi Fontenot LSUHSC, Bethany & Johann Bultman
LSUHSC Chancellor, Merv Trail, MD (center) with his family celebrating the NOMC’s founding at Jazz Fest.
JACK B. MCCONNELL, M.D.
Dr. Jack McConnell is a physician, scientist, and humanitarian who served as corporate director of advanced technology at Johnson & Johnson. Widely acknowledged for his medical contributions, he directed the development of the TB Tine Test to detect tuberculosis, participated in the early development of the polio vaccine, supervised the discovery of Tylenol, was instrumental in developing MRIs, and helped write enabling legislation to map the genome. Following retirement, he created Volunteers in Medicine, which gives retired medical personnel a chance to volunteer at free clinics for the working uninsured and underinsured. McConnell’s visionary concept has inspired over 40 community health care clinics in less than 10 years, one of those being the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.
McConnell became well known in the 1990s among fans of his son Page McConnell’s band Phish for his frequent stage appearances. After an inspired performance with the popular rock band Phish at the famed New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Dr. Jack McConnell familiarized himself with the New Orleans music scene and later, with the help of a coalition of local music advocates and medical professionals through the LSUHSC, set his sights on creating a “safety net” or health care resource for the musicians of New Orleans. In 1998, he founded the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic alongside Johann and Bethany Bultman, partnered with the LSU Health Care System foundation.