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 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, as well as non-students, to gain experience with qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Lab research projects examine the ways arts and culture can be leveraged to support public health and healthcare goals, and builds an evidence base detailing the mechanisms at play during arts participation that can impact individual and community health and wellbeing. Current areas of research include analyses of the impacts of arts and cultural engagement on social cohesion, arts on prescription case studies and outcome research, and more. Our research assistants engage in a wide variety of tasks, including literature review, data collection, analysis, and writing. This dynamic team meets every Friday during the academic year from 2 - 4:30pm via remotely via Zoom

The Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab  recruits new members every spring. If you have any questions about the lab or application process, please e-mail Nicole Morgan 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 research initiatives at the Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida (UF), director of national research and impact for the One Nation, One Project initiative, and co-director of the EpiArts Lab, a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab. 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.  

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.

Solana Rostick, 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 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. 

Akshata Parekh, 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 Weymouth, Student Research Assistant

Ashley is a second year Master’s in Public Health student with a concentration in Social & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida. She also attended UF for undergrad, studying visual art and psychology. Her interests in art and mental health led her to the UF Center for Arts in Medicine, where she received an undergraduate Certificate in Visual Arts in Medicine. Ashley is always eager to learn about the many ways that artmaking can be used as a tool to improve mental and physical health. She is inspired by the transformative power of the arts and hopes to work towards increasing accessibility to the arts, as it can be so influential for our health and wellness on both an individual and community level.

Cathy Chan, Student Research Assistant

Cathy Chan is currently a third-year student at the University of Florida pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology and minors in Music Theory and Chinese Studies, as well as certificate in Music in Medicine. She grew up playing piano across various genres and is currently a volunteer pianist at Shands Arts in Medicine as part of the Atrium Performances. As someone who is passionate about music and aspires to become a Music Therapist in the future, she hopes to gain understanding from the lab on how all of the arts, not just music, can come together to help local communities and the medical field as well. 

Chyna Miller, Student Research Assistant

Chyna Miller, MPH recently conferred her Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida. In tandem, Chyna is exploring Arts in Public Health through a Graduate Certificate at UF Center for Arts in Medicine. As an incoming Doctor of Public Health Student and McKnight Doctoral Research Fellow, Chyna's research focuses on leveraging art-based interventions to address the social, behavioral, and health impacts of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among minority rural populations. Alongside her academic pursuits, Chyna serves as a visual artist in residence at UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine and lends her expertise as a Public Health Consultant in the non-profit sector.

Cris Sanhueza, Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Gabrielle Hammond, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Gray Davidson Carroll, Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

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.

Irene Iuliano, Research Assistant

Irene is a community psychologist working with vulnerable young people. She lives in Italy, where she collaborates with a Social and Community Theatre centre that uses theatre to engage communities.

Irene is interested in investigating how the arts can promote both individual and collective well-being and mental health. She has participated in various storytelling courses, street poetry workshops and Theater of the Oppressed training sessions and she volunteered with a theater company that works with aphasic people. She has firsthand experience of how art can become both an artistic possibility and a narrative tool aimed at promoting health in different contexts. She firmly believes in the profound benefits that the arts can offer!

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.

Jessie Babb, Student Research Assistant

Jessie is a pre-medical undergraduate student at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in Biology and a minor in Early Childhood Studies. Jessie is passionate about the arts; she grew up with theatre and music as a large part of her life and she continues to play her instrument in the University of Florida Gator Band. She is hoping to work with children in her future medical career and is interested in understanding how the arts can be included in pediatric care. She is excited to work with this team and is looking forward to applying the knowledge she has gained when she becomes a healthcare professional.

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.

Lindsey Mcdougall, Student Research Assistant

Since joining the UF Center for Arts in Medicine’s graduate program, Lindsey has focused her research on the impact of the arts in educational settings, as well as their role in fostering survival and resilience during historical periods of oppression. Lindsey also serves as a virtual teacher for Pasco County Schools, integrating her passion for the arts and creativity into education. Her current research investigates how art workshops can enhance students' feelings of belonging and community and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation. Her primary art modalities include music, creative writing, and movement, with recent explorations in collage, zines, and even aerial arts.

Monish Vijayaraghavan, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Olaitan Komolafe, 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.

Rachel Stergios, Student Research Assistant

Rachel is a graduate student in the Arts in Medicine program obtaining her Master’s degree and also received her undergraduate Bachelor of Science from University of Florida in psychology with an emphasis on neurobiological and personality studies. She is a lifelong artist and primarily works in visual arts but also sings and writes poetry. She was once in a punk band.

Her primary goals involve the intersection of creativity, neuroscience, and health and to bring a positive outlook to re-incorporating the arts into regular academic curriculum and communities.

Ron Do, Research Asssistant

Ron Do is a Psychology major and Education minor alumnus from Bates College, Class of 2024. His research primarily focuses on promoting equity for minority communities using mixed methods. This includes understanding the experiences of BIPOC students in the psychology program at a predominantly white college and the experiences of Asian multilingual clients in monolingual psychotherapy. Beyond his research, Ron has a keen interest in drag and street dance culture, actively practicing vogue, waacking, and hip hop.

Seher Akram, Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Shelley Xie, Student Reserach Assistant

Shelly Xie, MD, MA candidate in Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida, is deeply passionate about the intersection of arts and medicine/health and the multidisciplinary approaches to enhance patient and healthcare provider well-being, medical education, and health communication/advocacy. She has utilized various art modalities to improve patient and staff experiences in healthcare settings and to illuminate human stories within global health challenges. Her recent work focuses on assessing and developing arts-based curricula to foster medical trainees’ well-being and professional development. Shelly is grateful to join the CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab and is enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate, learn from the diverse members, and drive forward the collective missions.

Stefany Marjani, Student Research Assistant

Stefany Marjani is a transfer undergraduate student from Miami Dade Honors College to the University of Florida pursuing a major in Biology and a minor in Public Health in the pre-med track. Since she was a child, Stefanyenjoyed dancing and performing, especially with and for children. She is an advocate for accessible and affordable healthcare for all. She also likes to learn how education can convey health information through the arts, and how certain actions help to reduce health disparities. Now, she is conducting a study through the University Scholars Program on pre-health students' perceptions of Health Humanities and an applied virtual experience during the pandemic. She hopes this research could support the development of the first academic program at UF and other schools. Stefany wants to continue learning how the arts and humanities influence healthcare,  and she plans to use the skills gained as an aspiring practicing physician and healthcare advocate.

Valerie Cobo, Student Research Assistant

Valerie is a third-year pre-dental student working towards a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She holds a strong passion for the arts and frequently engages in drawing during her leisure time. Inspired by her love for art, she chose to pursue a certificate in Visual Arts in Medicine after discovering its profound impact on health and society as a whole. Valerie is enthusiastic about honing her research skills and aspires to make a meaningful contribution to both the local community and the broader world. Her goal this year is to learn as much as she can about ongoing projects and collaborate with her team.

Victoria Blanchette, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Vidushi Liyanage, Student Research Assistant

Vidushi Liyanage is a second-year Biology major on the pre-medicine track. Due to personal experiences, Vidushi became determined early on to be involved in healthcare; however, going to an arts school created a deep love for the arts, particularly music, and its non-discriminatory nature and universality. She has also witnessed how the arts are a medium for healing and connection within communities, which she is eager to explore through a research perspective. Through her work in the lab, she hopes to make a valuable contribution to the field and develop skills that will help her be a more mindful future medical professional.

She is currently involved in a mentoring program for children at the YMCA in Gainesville that focuses on providing support to grade-school children and is a volunteer at UF Shands Hospital with Child Life where she has the opportunity to interact with many children and facilitate activities.

Watson Kawecki, Research Asssistant

William ‘Watson’ Kawecki BFA, MPH (he, him) is honored to join the CAM research team. Watson has led Healthcare Clown teams through Clown Rounds during sensitive and complex medical encounters in pediatric hospitals since 1999, as part of the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Unit; Healthy Humor Inc.; and Laughter League. Watson earned his BFA in Theater from Miami University of Ohio, graduated from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, rode the rails for 1,029 shows as part of RBBB’s Blue Unit, and made friends with a giraffe while part of Kinoshita Circus in Japan. He has also performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, on ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’, and at the U.N., among other venues. In October 2023 Watson completed his Executive Master of Public Health as part of Cohort 32 at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, focusing on policy and management.

Yaning Wu, Student Research Assistant

Yaning is a PhD student in blood donor health at the University of Cambridge's Department of Public Health and Primary Care. Throughout her BSc and MSc, she trained in the social determinants of health, quantitative and qualitative research and analysis, and critical literature appraisal. Outside of work, she enjoys playing music (for strangers and for people she knows and loves) and trying to write poetry about the extraordinary parts of ordinary things.

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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