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- What is your background in both dance and medicine? Why did you decide to pursue those two disciplines?
Hello everyone! My name is Angie Huang and I am a second year physician assistant (PA) student at the University of Southern California (USC). I grew up in Newport Beach, CA but I lived in Hsinchu, Taiwan for the first 5 years of my life. At 3 years old, I started taking ballet lessons at a local dance studio in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Then, when I moved to Southern California I continued ballet and trained in jazz, hip hop, and lyrical. In high school, I did competitive dance and cheer and song. During my undergraduate career at Northeastern University, I was a dancer and choreographer in the Northeastern University Dance Company (NUDANCO). I mainly choreographed hip hop. It was a great way to destress and have a group of friends with the same interest.
I grew up witnessing both of my physician grandfathers helping their small communities in Taiwan. My experiences volunteering in their clinics as a young child is the catalyst that ignited my desire to become a physician assistant. Therefore, I was a health science major with the physician assistant career in mind. During my undergraduate and postgraduate years, I worked as a clinical assistant in pediatric otolaryngology and a medical assistant in dermatology. I was a two-time PA school applicant. I decided to pursue both dance and medicine because they both have a way of helping people. Further, dance has been by my side through my journey to becoming a physician assistant. I would not be who I am today without both dance and medicine.
- When was the first time you performed, and what part of that experience do you still carry with you?
The first time I performed was when I was 3 years old in Hsinchu, Taiwan. We performed a traditional Taiwanese dance with ballet influences. I remembered I was nervous before going on stage but while I was on stage, I felt energized from the audience and I could not stop smiling. I enjoyed being on stage and sharing it with my friends from dance class. I still carry that nervousness every time I go on stage but now I know not to be scared and to always enjoy it!
- Such creative journeys often face great challenges and successes. What event(s) inspired or challenged you personally to pursue dance, and incorporating that into your medical training?
As a mentor in the Northeastern DREAM Program, I witnessed many children, from kindergarten to high school, that were unaware of nutrition and exercise. The DREAM Program allows college students to mentor children of all ages from subsidized housing. My mentee was unfamiliar with other types of food besides fast food. I was her mentor for the full duration I attended Northeastern University. I wanted to show my mentee and the other DREAM kids that exercise can be fun and eating healthy does not have to be difficult. I wanted to expose them to what healthy living looks like so I started with my first passion, which was dance.
- How do you blend your work in dance and in medicine? What’s one piece of advice you can share for those aspiring artist-PAs?
I utilize dance as a way to destress and exercise during my pre-physician assistant career and physician assistant training. Dance helps me forget about my challenges for the day and allows me to be in my own world with the music. For my volunteer experiences leading up to physician assistant (PA) school, I combined both my passions of medicine and dance. I volunteered with Flying Samaritans where I traveled to Tijuana, Mexico once a month with a cohort from California State University Long Beach to provide basic primary care for the local community. We would set up a makeshift clinic in a trailer which included a pharmacy and registration. While the children were waiting for their turn to see the provider, I would conduct a mini dance class in the common area with a warm up, dance combination, and freeze dance. It warmed my heart to see their joy and smiles. I did something similar with after school programs including Northeastern DREAM Mentoring Program, Girls Inc., and the Boys and Girls Club. In PA school, I taught 45-minute dance classes at a local park for my classmates. The dance classes included a warm up and a dance combination. It was a way for all of us to decompress, enjoy the outdoors, and laugh with each other. As a future healthcare provider, I hope to continue bringing smiles by combining dance and medicine.
My one piece of advice for aspiring artist-PAs is to not be afraid to combine and integrate both disciplines. It may have not been done before at your practice or school but you will never know the potential for success until you try.