Medical students join effort to improve health care of Ohio University performing arts students

Apr 19, 2016

A collaboration between the Heritage College and the SHAPe Clinic is helping to meet the health care needs of performing arts students.

(ATHENS, Ohio) Student athletes often have access to specialized health care at universities, but performing arts students are less likely to receive the same kind of medical attention. At Ohio University, a collaboration between the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Clinic for Science and Health in Artistic Performance (SHAPe Clinic) is helping to meet the unique health care needs of dancers, musicians, actors and other performing arts students.

“By partnering with the Heritage College, we’ve taken our clinic to the next level in terms of the clinical care, research and education we provide to students,” said Jeff Russell, Ph.D., founder and director of the SHAPe Clinic. “Having a clinic like ours is very rare among universities worldwide; it’s even more unusual to work so closely with a medical school. The benefits are tremendous for the health and the blossoming careers of our performing arts students.”

Twice a month at the SHAPe Clinic, Heritage College faculty and students offer osteopathic manipulative treatment, which involves using the hands to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury and often entails moving muscles or joints to ease pain. They and the clinic’s athletic trainers frequently attend performances the same way medical experts are available at sporting events. That can include walking alongside the Ohio University Marching 110 or waiting in the wings at dance concerts. The clinic cares for 700 dance, music, theater performance, theater production and marching band students at Ohio University.

“The partnership with the SHAPe Clinic has generated considerable interest among medical students who would like to have a career treating performing artists or do research in this area,” said Heritage College Assistant Professor Timothy Law, D.O. (‘94), M.B.A., who is also the clinic’s medical director. “At the clinic, our students gain valuable knowledge about the kinds of injuries they might see as doctors. Issues can range from concussions to muscle fatigue. Just like traditional sports athletes, the activities of performing artists can take a physical toll.”

Russell adds, “Osteopathic care is a valuable addition to our clinic’s services. Its holistic approach is well-suited to our work with performers, and being able to provide Heritage College students with the opportunity to gain experience caring for artists is a bonus.”

An added benefit of the collaboration between the Heritage College and SHAPe Clinic is the opportunity for medical students to study and conduct research. Evelyn Eakin, a family medicine primary care associate and fourth-year medical student, has presented at two international conferences including the Performing Arts Medicine Association Annual Symposium. She along with Russell and Law presented findings demonstrating the beneficial role that osteopathic manipulative medicine can have for managing injuries in performing artists.

“In general, performing artists seem to love manual therapies because they have great connection with their bodies. The clinic offers a unique opportunity for them to get this treatment,” said Eakin, who taught dance before attending medical school.

Launched in 2013, the clinic, located in Putnam Hall, is a collaboration between the College of Health Sciences and Professions and the College of Fine Arts. Its services are available to all of the university’s dance, music and theater students and members of OHIO’s Marching 110.

The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is a leader in training dedicated primary care physicians who are prepared to address the most pervasive medical needs in the state and the nation. Approximately 50 percent of Heritage College alumni practice in primary care and nearly 60 percent practice in Ohio. CARE LEADS HERE.