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.

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed. Applications for Summer 2019 are now being accepted through April 1, 2019. Please e-mail Keely Mason 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

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

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.

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.

Max Helgemo, Research Coordinator

Max Helgemo is a research coordinator for the Center for Arts in Medicine and has a B.S. in exercise physiology from the University of Florida. His interests include music and its connection to wellbeing and the healthcare environment. He is also a Musician in Residence for UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine.

Keely Mason, Research Associate

Keely is the Program Associate 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. 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.

Camilo Reina-Munoz, Graduate Assistant

Camilo serves as a graduate assistant for the UF Center for Arts in Medicine, he has a B.A.S. in Organizational Management and will complete his M.A. in Arts in Medicine in 2018. He specializes in both quantitative and qualitative data analysis and enjoys creating visual models of study results. His research interests include applied theatre programs for LGBTQ+ populations, arts in health programming for hospitalized patients and their families, and arts in health messaging for community health and well-being.

Summer Bias, Graduate Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Jasmine Mack, Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Eli Luetke, Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

​2017-18 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 Chevalier, Student Research Assistant

Alyssa is a third-year undergraduate student at UF pursuing a degree in both psychology and dance, as well as a minor in theatre. She is also a student in the Dance in Medicine and Arts in Medicine certificate programs. Alyssa is an active volunteer and research assistant with the UF Shands Arts in Medicine programs, as well as a pediatric psychology lab. Alyssa’s future goals include going to graduate school for pediatric psychology with a research focus on how the arts can influence stress and anxiety management. 

Ana Ghislandi, Student Research Assistant

Ana is a second-year student at the University of Florida majoring in Health Science on a pre-Occupational Therapy track with a minor in Disabilities in Society. After her undergraduate studies, she hopes to pursue a doctorate degree in the field. She has been with the research team for over a year now.

Barbara Torres, Student Research Assistant

Barbara is a sophomore at UF from Miami, FL.  She is currently applying to the nursing program. Barbara joined the research team because she was inspired by the holistic perspective of the arts in medicine program. Her favorite part of research is data collection through interacting with patients and the community. 

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. 

Delannie Sharum, Student Research Assistant

Delannie is a third-year undergraduate student at UF pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, on the Pre-Med track. She serves as a Campus Diplomat under the Dean of Students Office and enjoys biking through town, going to the Farmer's Market on Wednesdays, and cooking delicious, vegetarian dishes for her and her roommates. She also serves as President for the UF chapter of Global Medical Training, an International Humanitarian Organization that provides free, accessible healthcare to medically and dentally deprived populations in Central America. She looks forward to attending medical school with hopes of establishing an accessible, arts-emphasized practice in the future.

Dionne Blake, Student Research Assistant

Dionne is a second-year undergraduate student majoring in Biology on the premed track. She is an intern for the Gainesville fire rescue which aims on decreasing readmission to the ER by addressing the social determinants for health. As an artist interested in family medicine, she hopes to apply the arts to aid in community health initiatives and address health disparities.

Guo Qian, Student Research Assistant

Guo Qian is a 2nd year undergraduate student at UF pursuing Biomedical Engineering, on the Pre-Med track. She is interested in developing medical technology that optimizes the neurological and musculoskeletal impact of music-based interventions. She hopes to combine her understanding of engineering, medicine, and music to transform healthcare by humanizing the patient-care experience.

Jessica Lindquist, Student Research Assistant

Jessica Lindquist is a pre-medical undergraduate student at the University of Florida majoring in Health Science. She has a specific interest in research on how the arts affect the progression of various degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Jessie Jimenez, Student Research Assistant

Jessie is a second-year psychology major on the premed track. He has special interest in cognitive neuroscience and the relationship between art and medicine.

Joshua Murillo, Student Research Assistant

Joshua Murillo is from Miami, FL and is a second year student majoring in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology on a Pre-medical track. He has been on the research team for four semesters. He joined the team because he was interested in studying how the arts and medicine collide and once he got involved with it, he was hooked! 

Keturah Lansiquot, Student Research Assistant

Keturah is a senior studying music and Spanish at the University of Florida. In the future, she hopes to pursue music therapy and continue to explore the link to be found between the arts and well-being.

Kristen Urichko, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Lindsay McKishnie, Student Research Assistant

Lindsay is a second-year student majoring in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, with a specialization in Exercise Physiology. Lindsay is planning to continue her education to become a Physical Therapist, and has a specific interest in research regarding the kinesiology of children, athletes, or the special needs community.

Maria Kuge, Student Research Assistant

Maria is a freshman music major on the pre-health track. Maria has an interest in neuropsychology and the relationship between music and the brain.

Moses Choi, Student Research Assistant

Moses is a sophomore at the University of Florida majoring in MicroBiology & Cell Science with a Music Piano Performance minor on a Pre-Med track. He is interested in many research studies, specifically on the physiological aspects of how music promotes healing.

Nicole Chang, Student Research Assistant

Nicole is a first-year undergraduate student at the University of Florida. She is interested in various areas of research, specifically on how music and other art forms affect a patient’s quality of life in the hospital. She is currently a Health Science major and hopes to go on to medical school after graduating.

Rosa Hwang, Student Research Assistant

Rosa is a Master's student in the Counseling Education Program in the University of Florida's College of Education. Her research interests lie in LGBTQ+ studies, interpersonal relationships, and identity formation.

Samantha Matott, Student Research Assistant

Samantha is a second-year nutritional science major on a pre-med track from Gainesville, Florida. She is interested in researching whole-person healthcare, with how nutrition, arts, and music affect the patient’s experience in the hospital.

Swati Patel, Student Research Assistant

Swati is a second-year psychology major at the University of Florida from Nashville, Tennessee. She is interested in various areas of research, particularly on the connection between art, healing, and mental health. She is also interested in the affects of the overall patient’s experience. 

Tiffany Le, Student Research Assistant

Tiffany is a third year undergraduate at the University of Florida majoring in Health Sciences and minoring in Health Disparities. Her primary career and research interest in Breast Cancer as well as Emergency/Trauma medicine.

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