In the Loop
General News : Dec 22, 2021

Center for Arts in Medicine expands leadership to meet recent growth and success

Jill Sonke becomes research director as search for a second director begins

By Brandon J. McKinley

In response to exponential growth, the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine is expanding its leadership team to two co-directorships.

Jill Sonke, Ph.D., will become its first-ever research director at the start of 2022. Sonke has served as director of the center since its inception in 1996, when it was founded by her, John Graham-Pole, M.D., and Rusti Brandman, Ph.D. 

The search for the second director is underway. The College of the Arts expects to fill the position by July 1, 2022.

“This more robust leadership and organizational structure will allow the Center for Arts in Medicine to continue its momentous trajectory in defining the future of arts and wellness,” says Onye Ozuzu, dean of the UF College of the Arts. “The need for expanded capacity is a result of the extraordinary work of faculty, staff and students.”

The Center for Arts in Medicine’s faculty, staff and students continue to lead and advance the field of arts in health, addressing critical health issues and populations. Their work includes research and practice that engages arts in the military, palliative care, education, and social determinants of health in communities. Examples include programming that demonstrates the capacity of theatre to provide affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ youth and the arts as a resource for community empowerment.

The center’s roles in developing the emergent field of arts in public health and responding to the most pressing health crises of our time have positioned it as a national leader.

In 2020, it launched a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab, called the EpiArts Lab, to study long-term health benefits of engaging with the arts in the United States.

The center also led a nationwide response to COVID-19, including a collaboration with University College London to study the mental health impacts of enforced isolation. This summer, Sonke and the center partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase vaccine confidence through arts and culture.

The center will maintain its partnership with the CDC and is also a partner in the World Health Organization’s Healing Arts Lab.

“This is an exciting moment of growth and evolution for the Center for Arts in Medicine and wonderful to expand the administrative infrastructure to match the growth that has and will happen in the center,” Sonke says.  

As research director, Sonke will oversee the center’s research activities and advance its research agenda in national and international spheres. She will direct the EpiArts Lab and CAM Interdisciplinary Lab and serve as director of national research and impact in the federal initiative One Nation/One Project. 

The new director, who will work in tandem with Sonke, will be focused on building, implementing and maintaining strong academic structures and leading collaborative academic work. They will guide the center as it explores the development of a doctoral degree program and transitions to becoming a faculty tenure-granting department in the College of the Arts.

The center also recently established a new assistant director role, which was taken on by Ferol Carytsas, lecturer and undergraduate curriculum coordinator in the center. Carytsas will serve as acting director at the start of the year until the new director is brought on board in July.


Visit the UF Careers website to read more and apply for the role.

Learn more about the Center for Arts in Medicine on its website.