Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu MD, MPH,
Senior Contributor

Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu, MD, MPH is an Associate Professor at the Yale School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh, a board-certified Physiatrist, and a renowned leader in positing sports as a positive influence in culture.

As a physician, she specializes in spine and sports medicine.

As a researcher, Dr. Tuakli directs the Sports Equity Lab —an interdisciplinary research group focused on dismantling inequities in sport (exclusion, discrimination, and exploitation) while amplifying sport’s role as a positive change agent in society.

A long jumper who represented the Ghana National Team until 2016, Dr. Tuakli was also the International Paralympic Committee’s inaugural welfare officer, is a member of the International Olympic Committee’s working group to prevent harassment and abuse in sport, is co-Chair of the Safe Sport International research committee, and the Chair of the International Society for Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine task force on physical activity for persons with disabilities.

Dr. Tualki-Wosornu is an important addition to SportsEdTV given her attention to important issues in sports and cultures that mirror much of SportsEdTV's vision and mission. How her life experiences motivate her leadership in that realm is best described in this version of her own:

“I was born wanting to engage physically in the world and built with an insatiable penchant for play through curiosity, exploration, and discovery of how things truly work. And I have always wanted to know for myself. No surprise then that as I grew, there wasn't a sport I wouldn't try, nor was there a science fair I wouldn't enter. But my greatest love is sports.

There's just something about sports. The power, the passion, the purpose; the lessons, the love, the loss; the friendships, the fall-outs, the faith. I've competed at every level from bantam to elite since age 11. A lifelong athlete, I can honestly say that despite an Ivy League medical education, everything I've needed to learn in this life, I've learned through sport – and more importantly, I've learned those lessons most immediately, permanently, and transformatively in the sports arena. Sport is my first true love. It's sustained, nurtured, challenged, and changed me, always for the better, always with piercing clarity, always with love.

So when I became a professional athlete competing internationally for Ghana, I was deeply hurt when I started to experience different kinds of abuse at the hands of my mostly male coaches. I was disillusioned when I saw how athletes with disabilities are treated, in this otherwise fairytale-playground (n.b. athletes with disabilities from poor countries like Ghana bear especially unimaginable atrocities). It felt like a betrayal. As I became a clinician, I felt an incredible responsibility to directly address the vile underworld of sport, where exploitation and inequities poison the magic of the thing I love most in this world.

That’s why I started The Sports Equity Lab. SELY takes a close and careful look at the deep inequities in sport, asks why, and offers solutions. We do this with the perspective of the athlete front and center, always, partly because we are athletes, but also because we know that these inequities have persisted precisely because sports organizations routinely side-step the mire and complexity that comes with taking an empathic, athlete-centered, athlete-led, and trauma-informed approach. It's a little harder. It takes a little longer. It takes a willingness to try something new. But this is how things are going to change. This is how athletes and fans can return to an unfettered celebration of sport, with the purity and zeal that we all feel down to our bones on game day.

I'm privileged to work closely with a number of global sports organizations on policies and programs to improve sports, so I have a front-row seat as to what is currently happening in this space. The gaps in thinking and programming made it almost impossible not to start SELY. Our lab's body of work answers each gap.

“The Sports Equity Lab takes a close and careful look at the deep, dark inequities in sport, asks why, and offers solutions”

In this way, we create value by sending our work products into the world to spark new ideas, share new perspectives and shine a light on athletes and issues that historically have remained in the shadows. Together we have the experience, training, and interminable love for sports to contribute meaningfully in this space.”