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Changemakers: Taylor Ann Cohen

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Music is the heart and soul of New Orleans, as anyone who’s joined a second line or visited Preservation Hall can attest. As much as they are celebrated, however, many of the city’s musicians struggle with a lack of access to medical care and financial hardships. To address these issues, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic & Assistance Foundation (NOMC) has been instrumental in providing healthcare and support to the city’s music community. Avenue spoke with the organization’s Public Health Director Taylor Ann Cohen to learn more.  The initial idea for the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic was sparked at an appropriate place: Jazz Fest. In 1996, Dr. Jack McConnell visited New Orleans to catch the band Phish and cheer on his son Page, the keyboard player. This visit helped kick off a conversation about the needs of the New Orleans musician population. With help from Dr. McConnell, additional medical professionals, and cultural advocates for the city, the NOMC opened their first physical location on May 2, 1998.  Cohen has been involved with the NOMC for about eight years now, beginning as a volunteer who handed out earplugs to people who stood near the speakers at French Quarter Fest.  “Hearing loss prevention is a public health issue I’m passionate about,” said Cohen. “I also like to support the musicians, their career, and their way of making money.” Preventing hearing loss means more people can enjoy music throughout their lives without troublesome ringing in the ears.  Next, Cohen attended Tulane, and she continued to do practicum with the NOMC. In fact, when she earned a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, she tracked the professional dancer population in the city with the Dancer Wellness Program. In her current role as Public Health Director, she oversees many prevention efforts for the New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation.  The New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic offers a huge collection of services, including specialty doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, and family nurse practitioners. Underneath the LSU Healthcare Network banner, they provide over 2,500 musicians and other artists with preventative care, a discounted pharmacy, and many social services.  In addition to the clinic, NOMC also offers a number of outreach programs to provide additional services. First launched during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the Makin’ Groceries program has volunteers deliver healthy food every week to over a hundred New Orleans musicians, industry workers and culture bearers, many of whom have health and mobility issues. Cohen helped start You Got This, a mental health and suicide prevention program. It provides a community-based space for creative expression, as well as self-care and social connectivity. A unique location in New Orleans for mental health resources such as reiki and acupuncture, they also offer sober healing happy hours with mocktails and live music. It’s one of the ways the organization can bring healthcare to the community outside of the clinic, while also offering a way for people to socialize and have fun without the presence of alcohol.  Now, Cohen is about to welcome three student interns from LSU and Tulane. She is excited to bring in new people at the student level  – the way she first joined the organization – and have them see what the Clinic can achieve.  “Ultimately it’s about preserving the musical heritage of the city, protecting music, culture bearers, Mardi Gras Indians, entertainers, and industry workers – often those who cannot get healthcare through their jobs,” said Cohen.  In addition, the organization welcomes volunteers at any time. At this time, they need food delivery drivers for the Makin’ Groceries program, as well as extra hands for community programming. If you are interested in volunteering to drive for Makin’ Groceries, email makingroceries@nomaf.org for more information. Funding is also crucial. NOMC recently received funding from Gilead Sciences, Inc. to focus on breast cancer prevention in Louisiana. This offers an exciting opportunity to make more of an impact in that field. Cohen hopes to see the clinic and foundation earn additional funding to continue engaging with more artists in the city. Public grants, academic grants and private donations all help keep this crucial organization going.  Lastly, spreading the word about NOMC benefits the organization as well. Simply telling more people about their services, some of which are life-saving opportunities for the city’s musicians and artists, can help reach even more people in the community. 



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