This month, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will honor Dr. Freddie H. Fu’s 30th season supporting the company with a celebratory reception on the opening night of PBT’s 2012-2013 Season Finale, Cinderella with the Orchestra.
Although the artistry may appear effortless onstage, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers are as much athletes as artists, rehearsing, performing and cross training an average of eight hours a day during the ballet season. Comparable to the professional athletes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins, PBT’s professional dancers benefit from the specialized care of a medical team with an in-depth understanding of the physical demands of dance. For three decades, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performers have received the continuous support of UPMC Sports Medicine under the leadership of Dr. Freddie H. Fu, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC and David Silver Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.
“It has been a distinct honor and one of our proudest accomplishments to continue the tradition of partnering UPMC Sports Medicine and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. PBT is a team known for its uplifting, amazing performances through the decades, but sometimes in making great art there comes a price: a performer turns an ankle, tweaks a muscle or injures a bone or joint,” said Dr. Fu. “So many UPMC physicians, physical therapists and certified athletic trainers have pitched in and helped behind the scenes, allowing the true stars to return to the stage and stay as injury-free and fit as possible, and they deserve our thanks and credit. On a personal note, this relationship has been especially gratifying for me and my family as patrons of the ballet and the arts. Together, UPMC and PBT are working together for greater health and greater good and to increase awareness of this kind of specialized dance medicine.”
When Dr. Fu first launched the UPMC Sports Medicine program at PBT, he placed it among the first professional ballet companies in the country to house a medical residency program tailored to dance. Starting with a generous offer to make personal visits at the studios, Dr. Fu made sure he was in the audience for every production, ready to provide immediate care in the event of an onstage injury. UPMC Sports Medicine physical therapists and athletic trainers now visit the studios five days a week to work with dancers in PBT’s in-house UPMC Sports Medicine Therapy room, which was endowed by Dr. Fu and his wife Hilda. UPMC Sports Medicine professionals also continue to attend every dress rehearsal and performance, even when the company is on tour.
“Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is incredibly fortunate to be able to give our dancers regular access to an expert medical team that thoroughly understands the specific needs of a ballet dancer. Through preventative care, superior surgery and rehabilitation, UPMC Sports Medicine helps to lengthen the careers of our dancers and keep PBT performers healthy to do what they love in the studio and onstage,” said PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. “We owe all of this to Dr. Fu. For the past three decades, his constant support has extended beyond medical care to an overarching support for the company and the art form as one of our most loyal patrons and advocates.”
Dr. Fu’s work continues to have a lasting personal impact on the careers of PBT artists. Following a 2007 knee injury, PBT Principal Dancer Julia Erickson credits Dr. Fu and his team for helping her return to the stage fully recovered after surgery and rehabilitation with UPMC Sports Medicine.
“As a dancer, my body is my instrument, and injuries are a reality of the profession. It’s a huge asset for us to be able to rely on the expertise of Dr. Freddie Fu and his team, who understand ballet’s distinct demands on the muscles and ensure that we have the support we need to keep our bodies at their peak performance. It was incredibly comforting knowing I was in the best hands possible throughout the entire process of my knee injury, surgery, and recovery.” Erickson said.
In addition to his role as chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, Dr. Fu is the David Silver Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. He also has served as the head physician for the University of Pittsburgh Department of Athletics since 1986, and was instrumental in establishing the Sports and Preventive Medicine Institute in 1985, the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, which opened in October 2000, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Sports Medicine Fellowship Program.
The recipient of more than 200 awards and numerous major research grants, Dr. Fu is known worldwide for his pioneering surgical techniques, attracting patients — both athletes and non-athletes — from all over the globe. He is also world-renowned for his research on the biomechanics of sports injuries, and has edited 29 major textbooks, authored 116 book chapters and 437 peer-reviewed articles, and has given roughly 1,000 national and international presentations.