Actors’ Equity Association has announced that a team of doctors led by Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill are the new public health consultants for the union, effective immediately. This team also advises the American Guild of Music Artists and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society on COVID-19 safety.
“The last two years have shown that COVID-19 allows no room for complacency; if anything, we must strive to be ever more informed, responsive and nimble,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “We are grateful for Drs. Cunningham-Hill, Welch and Anderson for stepping up as we continue to navigate this difficult time.
“The union would also like to express our deepest thanks to Dr. David Michaels. In the early days of the pandemic, we knew we needed a partner and advisor who could understand and articulate not only the science and data, but also the unique challenges of the type of work we do. Dr. Michaels was one of the first epidemiologists to consult for the industry, and for nearly two years now he has been invaluable in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the theatre. We have nothing but gratitude for his time, kindness and expertise.”
Dr. Michaels offered the following statement:
“I am so proud to have played a role in keeping theatre workers safe over the past year and a half. I have always loved attending live theatre, and being able to help the industry reopen has been very gratifying, personally.
“I am taking on a new public health project that does not allow me to continue to dedicate the time to Equity that its members deserve. Still, I am moving on secure in the knowledge that the union is in good hands. I have worked with Mark and his team over the course of the pandemic, and with their experience with AGMA and SDC I know that they are ready to dive right in and continue to implement measures that will protect arts workers during COVID-19.”
The new consulting team is:
Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill led the response to SARS, MERS, Zika and Ebola for GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson and is now aiding international and U.S.-based companies in navigating through this pandemic. A transformative senior executive and expert physician, his experience spans Occupational Medicine, Wellness, Mental Wellbeing, Work-Life Effectiveness, Personal Energy Management, Digital Health Technologies, Occupational Health and Hygiene Risk Management and Well Building Design.
Dr. Laura S. Welch is an occupational medicine specialist, board certified in internal medicine and occupational medicine, licensed to practice in DC and Maryland, and consultant. With over 30 years of experience, she has the acute ability to analyze the physical, mental and social wellbeing of both groups of people and individuals, to best promote health and safety in the workplace. For 15 years she served as medical director at the Center to Protect Workers Rights (CPWR), a research institute affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades department of the AFL-CIO. She has served as a consultant to many federal agencies, including OSHA and the CDC. Dr. Welch has worked with several union-management committees on health and safety issues, including United Auto Workers-Boeing. She continues to frequently provide occupational medicine expertise to the AFL-CIO.
Dr. Steven J. Anderson is a renowned sports medicine doctor who has provided medical care for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the United States Diving Team, NCAA and Pac 12 sports, and numerous local high schools and club teams. Dr. Anderson has served as Chair of the Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness for the American Academy of Pediatrics and has been a Seattle Magazine and/or Seattle Metropolitan Magazine “Top Doctor” on multiple occasions.
AGMA’s National Executive Director Sam Wheeler and SDC’s Executive Director Laura Penn offered the following joint statement:
“AGMA and SDC look forward to working more closely with Equity as we all continue to navigate through the muddy waters of the pandemic. There are now proven, science-based practices to keep artists safe and reduce the risk of workplace transmission of COVID-19 in the performing arts industry. Although we do not know what is next in the pandemic, our ongoing work has allowed our artists to return to work in the safest way possible. Our partnership with the AGMA/SDC Expert Medical Advisory Panel has proven that the show can go on, and safely. We are excited that Equity will be seeking guidance from the esteemed panel we’ve come to trust so deeply.”
During the pandemic, Actors’ Equity Association has worked to prioritize workplace safety, first retaining former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Dr. David Michaels in April 2020 to advise the union on pandemic safety issues. The union has regularly released updated safety guidance for producers.
In June of 2020, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the Stage Directors and Choreographer Society (SDC) engaged the services of an expert medical advisory panel to assist with COVID-19 safety planning and ensure that their members were protected in the workplace. This successful collaboration led to the publication of the acclaimed AGMA/SDC Return Stage and Performing Arts Playbook (now in its fourth revision), a number of Updates and Guidances, and a COVID-19 response webinar series.