Center for Arts in Medicine

Professional Development

Interdisciplinary Research Lab

CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab

The Center for Arts in Medicine's Interdisciplinary Research Lab is a highly dynamic research lab comprised of 35 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 2-4:30pm and research credit is available.

Applications to join the Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab are now closed.  If you have any questions about the application process, please e-mail  Morgan Yacoe at

Student Research

Undergraduate Student Research
  • Applied Theatre for Adult ADHD; Amanda Gerulski, University Scholar Awardee
  • Preferential Music for Pediatric Burn Patients; Nico Manhas, Medical Scholars Program
  • Suicide Prevention Through Theatre Intervention; Ariel Reich, University Scholar Awardee
  • Assessing Music Activity for Children on the Autism Spectrum; Michele Cabeza, University Scholar Awardee
Graduate Student Research
  • Community Arts for Wellness in the 4th Trimester: Keturah Austin-McClendon 
  • Murals for Vaccine Confidence: Alexandra Rodriguez
  • Graphic Medicine and Clinical Empathy Development in Pre-Health Undergraduates; Nicole Morgan, University Scholar Awardee
  • The Impact of Arts Activities on Workplace Satisfaction in Pediatric Waiting Rooms; Anna Martin

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

Jenny Baxley 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

Dr. Dionne Champion, Faculty Investigator

Dionne's work has focused on the design and ethnographic study of learning environments that blend STEM and creative embodied learning activities, particularly for children who have experienced feelings of marginalization in STEM education settings (e.g. African Americans, girls).  She is interested in understanding the ways these populations draw on their everyday practices and use their bodies as resources.  She explores STEM engagement through making and embodied experienceto construct broader conceptualizations of cognition that substantively intertwine STEM learning and development, attending to the affective, social and emotional while broadening STEM knowledge and understanding. Click here to view full biography.  

Jeffrey Pufahl, Faculty Investigator

Bio coming soon.

Morgan Yacoe, Research Coordinator II

Morgan Yacoe is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and educator. She is a Research Coordinator for the Center for Arts in Medicine. She is also an Assistant Adjunct Professor within the School of Art and Art History and Resident Artist and Curator at the 4Most Gallery. Her goal as an artist is to work creatively with people and materials to facilitate greater opportunity, awareness, and integrated learning through traversing seemly disparate disciplines. Click here to view full biography. 

Nicole Morgan, Research Manager

Nicole Morgan is the Research Manager for the Center for Arts in Medicine. She currently manages research conducted within the CAM Interdisciplinary Lab, the EpiArts lab, and the One Nation, and the One Project Research and Impact Lab. Prior to this role, she supported clinical research at 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. 

Aaron Colverson, Research Associate

Aaron Colverson is a doctor of philosophy from the University of Florida in Ethnomusicology, with partnering research in Neuropsychology. He received a fellowship to study music and prosocial interaction in Alzheimer’s disease and endeavors to build cross-disciplinary competency between ethnomusicology and neuropsychology in the context of gerontology. Aaron studies rhythm perception, learning, and performance in the healthy aging population using a mixed-methods approach involving neuropsychological assessment, a music lesson, and functional magnetic resonance imaging. He was accepted to a hybrid postdoctoral/leadership-training fellowship with the Global Brain Health Institute of the University of California, San Francisco to begin this fall. His contributions to academic literature are broad from arts participation and well-being to music/sound-induced permeability of the blood-brain barrier. He graduated from Berklee College of Music with a BM in Professional Music focused on jazz violin performance after which, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya for two years, embedding himself in East African musical traditions and cultures. In his spare time, Aaron avidly pursues improvement in competitive ultimate frisbee.

Miju Ku, Graduate Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Natalie Rella, Communications Specialist

Natalie graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Public Health. After graduation, Natalie worked for the Department of Children and Families as a Child Protective Investigator. Natalie was awarded a Maternal and Child Health Fellowship to study for Masters of Public Health at the University of South Florida where she specialized in community health, health communication, and health disparities. While at USF, Natalie was awarded the USF Graduate Challenge Grant and led a research team that explored the effects of paternal involvement on maternal and child health outcomes. Natalie also worked as a research coordinator for the Social Marketing Group and on a project that used SMS technology and to promote Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. After graduation, Natalie worked at UF’s GatorWell Health Promotion Services as a Health Promotion Specialist for over 6 years. During this time Natalie expanded the creative services and digital media operations for the department, implemented health communications campaigns, and provided Wellness Coaching, among (many) other things. Natalie took a professional pause to get a second human settled into the world before joining the CAM team. In any professional capacity, Natalie finds passion in work that contributes to improving individual and collective quality of life and closing the health disparities gap. Natalie is inspired to learn new and effective approaches to carry out that mission. As much as she likes to work, she likes to play: going on adventures with family and friends, making music, cooking delicious food, moving in her body, and taking time to reset in nature.

​2023-24 Student Research Assistants

Abel Abraham, Student Research Assistant

Abel Abraham is a second-year Health Sciences major on the pre-medicine track. From a young age, Abel was fascinated by music and its ability to transcend boundaries, connecting people from different walks of life. In addition, he is especially interested in studying how the arts can be used to reduce health disparities and promote health equity. As a future physician, he seeks to apply the findings from research to his career, using the arts to foster health, wellbeing, and connection. 

Abby McDade, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Alexis Goodman, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Alex Rodriguez, Student Research Assistant

As a current Public Health PhD student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences concentration, Alex Rodriguez, MPH primarily pursues research with the UF Center for Arts in Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Lab which she has been a part of since 2021. Alex has had the opportunity to contribute to arts in public health research such as CDC field guides on how to utilize the arts to promote vaccine confidence as well as the Oxford Bibliography for the field of Arts in Health.

More recently, she developed a grant-funded, mural-based vaccine confidence project which was selected for a Cam Busch Award (Honorable Mention) by the National Organization of Arts in Health. Alongside her continued research at the University of Florida, Alex is working with One Nation/One Project — a national arts and community wellbeing project across the United States — as a National Research and Impact Associate.

Annika Thiim, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Ashley Quigley, Student Research Assistant

Ashley is a pre-medical student at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in Nutritional Science as well as a minor in Dance and a certificate in Dance in Medicine. Growing up with the discipline of ballet, she has witnessed the transformative power the arts had on her personal health. She has spent time in the lab working on multiple projects under One Nation/One Project. Ashley is passionate about exploring the correlation between artistic movement and mental and physical well being. She is grateful for the professional skills she has been able to develop and the meaningful connections she has made through being a member of the lab..

Caroline Wagner, Research Assistant

Caroline Wagner-Jacobson is an alumni in the Arts in Medicine graduate program at the University of Florida. Caroline is an actor, dancer, singer, and improv performer. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in theatre from Arizona State University, she performed professionally across the United States, directed and choreographed hundreds of shows, and taught theatre classes to kids and adults. In 2009, Caroline merged her passion for the arts with her passion for helping others and dove headfirst into the field of arts in health. She has facilitated theatre engagement with hospitalized pediatric patients, low-income school children, at-risk families affected by HIV/AIDS, inpatients recovering from substance abuse, and U.S. Veterans. She believes in the power of using the arts in healthcare and community settings. Caroline is honored to be here and eager to learn from her experience as a member of the CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab.

Cassandra Belden, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Cris Sanhueza, Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Debbie Early, PhD, Research Assistant

Debbie’s background is in bio-medical science and she is also a certified yoga and meditation teacher. A life-long learner, Debbie has contributed to numerous health and environmental programs overseas and locally. She has held an honorary research position at Imperial College in the UK. She has been a lecturer at the master-level in Australia and also been guest and adjunct lecturer at Drexel and West Chester Universities. She loves hiking, reading, drumming and photography."

Eugene Gurary, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Emily Chacko, Student Research Assistant

Emily Chacko is a first year Statistics major on the pre-medicine track. Growing up as a competitive Bollywood dancer, she has observed the healing power of the arts within her own life and is eager to further explore the intersection between the arts and medicine. She is especially passionate about exploring the arts as a medium for improving individual and community health. Through her work in the lab, she hopes to gain a more thorough understanding of the role of the arts in patient recovery. She plans to use this knowledge to prioritize the arts in patient treatment plans as a future medical professional.

Gabrielle Hammond, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Gabriella Martinez, Student Research Assistant

Gabbie Martinez is currently a Senior majoring in Art History on the Pre Med track. She was a dancer, competitive cheerleader, and played the drums during her younger years. Therefore, the arts have been a part of her life since she can remember. She has a passion for art and is very interested in the many ways art can minimize pain. She genuinely believes art has a considerable impact on public health. She plans to pursue a master's next year, during her gap year, and then apply to medical school. Being a member of the lab for three years has taught her so much about collaborative work, research skills, and more about the ever-growing arts in medicine field. 

Hannah Powell, Student Research Assistant

As a first-year graduate student, Hannah Powell’s enrollment in the Arts in Medicine Graduate Program reflects her interests in psychology, research, and the visual arts, as well as a passion and curiosity for how art implementation can positively impact both community and clinical settings.

Since senior year, Hannah has used her skills in drawing, painting, and knitting as a volunteer at Shands Hospital, where she currently facilitates one-on-one visual arts projects with patients at bedside. During the summer of 2021, she experienced an amazing opportunity through co-founding and managing a reading-based program for children at the YMCA, where she provided the use of visual arts as a tool of encouragement for students as they developed and improved their reading skills.

Hiba Karim, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Isabella Sanchez, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Jennifer Kuo, Research Assistant

Jennifer Kuo, MPH, CHES has an abundance of involvement working with various types of initiatives and interacting with people of diverse populations. With over 20+ years of experience, she brings an assorted spectrum of skills with her background working in health and wellness, community engagement, education, marketing, and event/program planning at corporations, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. It is truly her passion to find opportunities that are professionally and personally fulfilling by being able to make a difference in the lives of people. She is particularly interested in the therapeutic benefits of expressive arts and mindfulness practices with program development and evidence-based research that positively influence health outcomes.

Katrina Pineda, Research Assistant

Katrina is the California Representative for the Arts Health Early Career Research Network. She received her MA in Arts in Medicine from UF in 2018 and her BFA In Multimedia Electronic Art from CSU, Chico in 2010. She has been part of various research, advocacy, facilitation, evaluation, and volunteer Arts in Health efforts over the past several years. This includes anything from leading employee volunteer opportunities at work and facilitating art workshops with local nonprofit organizations to conducting evaluations, assisting with research efforts, blog authoring, and connecting professionals at the intersection of arts and health. Additionally, she has a decade of experience in UI/UX design, research, and management at a young children’s EdTech company. While Katrina has a passion for all aspects of Arts in Health, she is particularly interested in researching arts & cognitive decline prevention, social prescribing, and public health benefits of integrating the arts into everyday life.

Mariana Occhiuzzi, Research Assistant

Mariana is an Argentinian musician, educator, artist in health, and an alum of the Arts in Medicine program at UF. She is passionate about the intersection between the arts, health, and culture. She hopes to help build and develop this field in Latin America, contributing to interdisciplinary research, professionalization, and policy making.  

Maya Smith, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Monish Vijayaraghavan, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Oduntan Sanmi, Student Research Assistant

Oduntan Sanmi is a medical doctor in training currently in her final year who first encountered arts in health while on medical rotations in the hospital wards. Since then, she has sought to further the development of arts in health practices & research in Nigeria and is hoping to humanise healthcare practices across all parts of Africa. The laboratory provides a keen opportunity for her to learn and hone her skills while collaborating with some of the best minds in the field of arts, health and research.

Pallavi Kantipudi, Student Research Assistant

Pallavi Kantipudi is a pre-medical student at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in Public Health. She has grown up learning various facets of Indian Classical music. She is also a member of Down to Dance, working to improve the social, motor, and cognitive skills of individuals with Down syndrome through dance. Inspired by the developmental advantages of the arts, she became interested in exploring the implications of arts in the medical field, specifically in global health communities. She is grateful for the opportunities that the lab provides to explore novel healthcare practices catered toward patient needs.

Romina Valerio, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Sohrob Sarbast Farahbakhsh, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Valerie Cobo, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Victoria Blanchette, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Yifan Chen, Research Assistant

Yifan Chen is the research coordinator for the Centre for Music and Health at NUS. His research seamlessly weaves together diverse fields such as sociology, biomedicine, and public health, highlighting the deep connection between the arts and health. His vast research pursuits encompass areas like arts in public health, social prescribing, music therapy, health policy, and narrative medicine. Yifan earned his Master of Health Science in Social Factors in Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and his Bachelor of Arts in Biomedical English from Peking University. Outside the realm of research and advocacy, he finds his voice through singing and songwriting. For more information, please see

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