Ohio University helps National Theatre of Ghana get artists in SHAPe

(Steering Committee from left to right: National Theatre of Ghana chairman Nana Ofori-Atta, Dr. Jeff Russell, clinical psychologist Prof. Angela Ofori-Atta, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Michael Segbefia, NTG executive director Amy Frimpong.)

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Ohio University helps National Theatre of Ghana get artists in SHAPe


Performing artists can experience a wide range of injuries while practicing their craft and they require significant specialized healthcare just as other athletes do. In 2013, Ohio University began to address this need via the SHAPe (Science and Health in Artistic Performance) Clinic. Now the clinic is being replicated internationally.

Jeff Russell, (PhD, AT) an assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, designed the SHAPe Clinic for performing arts students in a partnership between CHSP and the College of Fine Arts (CoFA). Recently, Russell spent two weeks in West Africa and unexpectedly helped implement a SHAPe clinic in Ghana.

Russell was invited by colleagues in CoFA, Drs. Paschal and Zelma Younge, to serve as a keynote speaker for a symposium presented in conjunction with the National Theatre of Ghana’s (NTG) 25th anniversary from June 25-27. He then spent several days caring for the Ghanaian and international visiting artists performing in the anniversary celebration’s arts festival. Russell’s talks on the intersections of art, science, sports and whole-person wellness caught the attention of Nana Ofori-Atta, the chair of the board of the NTG.

Ofori-Atta and Russell discussed ideas related to performing arts injuries and before long a five-person steering committee was formed with the goal of creating a SHAPe Clinic in Ghana.

Already scheduled to teach a healthcare leadership conference the following week, Russell was able to work with the committee to quickly establish the venture.

According to Russell, the initial NTG meeting was held on Monday, July 2. By the end of the week, the NTG had everything organized and ready to present to their artists and artistic staff. A room in the theatre was assigned for the clinic; staffing, including a physical therapist and a nurse, was put in place by the Ministry of Health; and national health insurance coverage for the artists was coordinated. The committee’s orthopaedic surgeon was named as a liaison to help the artists work through the healthcare system and the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, offered full support for the initiative. The committee also asked Russell to periodically visit Ghana with teams of performing arts athletic trainers who will provide performing arts medicine education to Ghanaian healthcare workers.

“The Ghanaians strongly desire to use ‘SHAPe Clinic’ as their facility name, thus adding another link to an already strong relationship between OHIO and Ghana,” said Russell.

“I’ve never seen a committee or a government work this quickly. These people are motivated to do this — the board chairman was not going to let it rest,” he added. “I commend all of them for their excellent work and thank them for letting me be involved in such a historic project.”