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Center for Arts in Medicine

Training, Internships, & Professional Development

Interdisciplinary Research Lab

The Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab is a highly dynamic research lab comprised of approximately 30 undergraduate and graduate students, research associates, and faculty from the arts, health sciences and other disciplines. With faculty mentorship, students provide research assistance on an array of studies that represent collaborations across numerous disciplines. Students are also supported in designing and executing their own research. The program engages students in interdisciplinary research, helps them develop research and leadership skills, and encourages creativity in interdisciplinary research. To learn more about current and past work completed by this team and/or the Center for Arts in Medicine faculty and staff, please visit our Research and Publications page.

Join the Interdisciplinary Research Lab!

The Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab is currently conducting an array of research studies. These studies offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to gain experience with qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Areas of research include arts and health communication, patient satisfaction, music in emergency and trauma care, and theatre and health communication. Our research assistants engage in a wide variety of tasks, including literature review, data collection, analysis, and hands-on work in the field. This dynamic team meets every Friday from 2-5pm and research credit is available.

We will no longer be taking applications for the Summer 2020 team. Applications for the Fall 2020 team are being accepted through July 20, 2020. Please e-mail Nicole Morgan at for more information.  

Interdisciplinary Research Team Members

Jill Sonke, Director, Investigator

Jill Sonke is director of the Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida (UF) and Assistant Director of UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine. She serves on the faculty of the UF Center for Arts in Medicine, and is an affiliated faculty member in the School of Theatre & Dance, the Center for African Studies, the STEM Translational Communication Center, the One Health Center, and the Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration.  Jill is also an Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow in the UF Warrington College of Business, and serves on the editorial board for Arts & Health journal, and the board of Citizens for Florida Arts. Click here to view full biography.

Dr. Virginia Pesata, Investigator

Dr. Pesata is a nurse educator, nurse practitioner and researcher.  She has worked in several settings in home health, community hospitals, academic medical centers, and universities as a pediatric and family nurse practitioner, and in roles in nursing administration, research and higher education. She received a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from George Washington University and two Master of Nursing degrees as both a Family Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Her certifications include Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Her research studies and publications are related to nursing and healthcare leadership, administration, HIV, health literacy, global health, the use of the arts in health communication, and the integration of the arts in hospital settings. Click here to view full biography

Heather Spooner, Faculty Investigator

Heather Spooner is an artist, art therapist and arts in health advocate with over 15 years’ experience in the field. Heather has worked in a variety of settings including healthcare facilities, museums, community-based treatment programs and the VA. Prior to joining the Center, Heather taught undergraduate art therapy and was the founding director of Arts for Health Florida. Heather joined the Center for Arts in Medicine in July 2014 as a research scholar and instructor in the Center’s graduate programs.  Heather works in a dual capacity with the Center for Arts in Medicine and the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center. Click here to view full biography.

Jennifer Lee, Faculty Investigator

Jenny Baxley Lee, MA, BC-DMT, is a Lecturer and Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist with the University of Florida's Center for Arts in Medicine in the College of the Arts. She is affiliated faculty with the School of Theatre and Dance and the STEM Translational Communication Center and serves on the Research Committee in the College of the Arts. Jenny is an active member of the American Dance Therapy Association and served on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Dance Therapy as Book and Film Review Editor. Click here to view full biography

Kelley Sams, Faculty Investigator

Kelley Sams, BFA, MPH, PhD, is Visiting Research Faculty at the University of Florida's Center for Arts in Medicine. She was previously a post-doctoral researcher in social anthropology and global health at the Norbert Elias Center/CNRS/EHESS in Marseille, France and a Fulbright-Hays fellow. Kelley is a graduate of UF's College of Arts in Fine Art Photography. After graduating from UF, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger where she used visual methods to reflect upon experiences and knowledge related to health. As an applied medical anthropologist, Kelley's research takes place at the intersection of the social sciences, public health, and the arts. Her recent work engages ethnographic photography (see and other qualitative methods to study the circulation of public health initiatives in the US and sub-Saharan Africa. Click here to view full biography.

Dr. Carla Fisher, Affiliated Faculty Investigator

Carla L. Fisher is an Assistant Professor in the Advertising Department and Affiliate Member of the STEM Translational Communication Center and UF Health Cancer Center. She was a Pre-doc Fellow with the National Institute on Aging (NIA) with summer post-doc training from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Using a life-span, developmental lens she examines the importance of family communication to health in the family environment and clinical setting. She conducts translational narrative-focused, mixed-method research with multi-method qualitative designs and collaborates with diverse health practitioners and medical institutions. Click here to view full biography.

Nicole Morgan, Research Coordinator

Nicole Morgan is a Research Coordinator for the Center for Arts in Medicine. Nicole is a UF alum, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Health Education and Behavior and a minor in Health Disparities in Society. She has experience conducting and coordinating research within the CAM Interdisciplinary Lab and at the Institute on Aging in UF’s College of Medicine. She has also designed and implemented quality improvement initiatives within UF Health’s Department of Neuromedicine and in the College of Medicine Equal Access Clinic. Her research interests include the arts in public health, as well as the connection between aesthetic experiences and wellbeing. Click here to view full biography. 

Keely Mason, Research Associate & Graduate Assistant

Keely is the Program Associate & Graduate Assistant for the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine. She graduated from UF with a BA in Dance and a BS in Health Education and is currently pursuing her Masters of Arts (MA) in Arts in Medicine. Keely is interested in researching the use of the arts as a tool for health messaging and health communication and researching the effects of dance on Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders. Click here to view full biography.

Aaron Colverson, Graduate Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Summer Bias, Graduate Assistant

Bio coming soon.

​2019-20 Student Research Assistants

Aanchal Shah, Student Research Assistant

Aanchal Shah is a first-year psychology student on the pre-medical track. She has a passion for the arts and is trained in 12 different dance styles: Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Pointe, Hip-Hop, Modern, Lyrical, Contemporary, Bharatanatyam, Bollywood, Bhangra and Raas. She also has a passion for medicine and aspires to become a perinatologist. Aanchal is an Emerging Scholar Recipient and is in the Dance in Medicine certificate program. She loves being a part of the Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab because it combines her love for medicine with the arts.

Alyssa Walters, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Austin Freedman, Student Research Assistant

Austin Freedman is a fourth-year Nutritional Science and Botany major on the pre-med track. With a passion for the arts, Austin believes in its ability to heal and promote wellbeing. As a University Scholar Recipient, he investigated music as a treatment aid for children with ADHD, with a desire to find alternative treatments to conventional medication. Austin aspires to become a plastic surgeon, where he can utilize his artistic abilities and perspective to improve lives. In the lab, Austin is excited and eager to learn about different arts-based practices and their impacts on health.

Brianna Curulli, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Cameron Qiao, Student Research Assistant

Cameron is a first year undergraduate student at the University of Florida. She is studying Biology and Visual Art Studies on the pre-med track. She hopes to explore her passion for the relationship between the arts and healthcare throughout her college career. 

Courtney Dougherty, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Emily Dolce, Student Research Assistant

Emily is a third year Applied Physiology and Kinesiology major with a minor in Disabilities in Society. Her research interests include how music can improve mental health and how the arts can be used to benefit individuals with disabilities. She has a passion for helping others and aspires to become pediatric oncologist.

Emily Erdman, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Gisselle Perez, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Jennifer Ly, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Kelviyana Walker, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Maria Kuge, Student Research Assistant

Maria is a music major and in the Music in Medicine certificate program at UF. After joining the research team in 2016, she has found a passion in Arts in Medicine and hopes to one day do her own research exploring the relationship between music and the brain.

Michelle Waldman, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Natalie Remond, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Nicole Villanueva, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

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