Over the past year, Dr. Dana Daniel Blake and Dr. Jason Terry have joined forces to research and improve the health of music students. Blake is an assistant professor and director of clinical education for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Samford and just recently was appointed to the Alabama Board of Physical Therapy. Terry is an assistant professor of piano and director of keyboard studies in the Division of Music in the School of the Arts.
Terry initiated the collaboration with Blake to help Samford students gain better awareness of health issues related to playing the piano. Blake has over 25 years of experience in ergonomics and believes “From a health care perspective, the performing arts should be viewed though a special lens. I treat football players as a competitive athlete. I treat people that work in manufacturing as an industrial athlete. I need to treat those in the arts as a performing arts athlete.”
Most health care for artists is a response to an already existing condition according to Terry. “But Dr. Blake and I are trying to get on the front of the problems to train our students to understand the physiological parts of being a pianist and how we can prevent issues from happening in the first place. The other aspect of this that is exciting is how responsive the students have been towards all of this instruction. I truly believe that the reason some of them are coming to us with their physical problems now is because they know we care enough to do something about it with them in mind,” said Terry.
In March of 2021, they hosted an event that engaged current and prospective Samford keyboard students with topics that highlighted the importance of stretching, breathing and body alignment while playing the piano. This work continued in November 2021 when seventeen instrumentalists (pianists, along with a guitarist, and violinist) were invited to Dr. Nick Washmuth’s spine class for student physical therapists (SPTs). Each musician was individually examined by 2-3 SPTs; following, their findings were assessed and guided by Samford physical therapy faculty. SPTs created an individual regimen for each musician and then met with the music student to review home exercise programs and ergonomic suggestions.
Earlier this year, Drs. Blake and Terry were invited to give an oral presentation of their collaborative research at the Performing Arts Medicine Association’s (PAMA) four-day international symposium in Chicago. This will mark the first time Samford University has had representation at this highly esteemed gathering of top ranked professionals in both the arts and medicine. Since 1989, PAMA has been the leading organization to bridge the chasm between health care professions and performing artists.
Drs. Blake and Terry were also selected to present a platform presentation at the American Physical Therapy Association Educational Leadership Conference (ELC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Their presentation depicted how those in the fields of medicine and arts can work together to educate and benefit students of physical therapy as well as piano through their qualitative and quantitative research.
This presentation resulted in further national recognition for Drs. Blake and Terry as one of four recipients of the 2021 Physical Therapy Learning Institute Innovator Award at the ELC. This award is given to presentations that innovate new areas/ideas/theories/techniques of PT education and are consistent with the vision and mission of PTLI. It was created in 1991 by Dr. Geneva R. Johnson PT, PhD, FAPTA with the focus on “LEADERSHIP that CHALLENGES the status quo and IGNITES collaborative change to INFLUENCE physical therapy education, research and practice.”
On campus, they have received grant money to develop a course in ergonomics and injury prevention. The course will be used “for Samford students as well as to help educate others via summer camps for high school teachers that come to Samford. We want to show what we are doing so others can replicate it and prevent injuries and take care of our performing arts students,” said Blake.
Both Terry and Blake see tremendous opportunities for this research on and off campus. They anticipate their collaboration will initiate other partnerships across schools and departments at Samford.