Poonam Desai, DO

Follow Dr. Desai at @doctoranddancer.

  1. What is your background in both dance and medicine? Why did you decide to pursue those two disciplines?

I started dancing at the age of 6. My first performance was around age 7! I am trained in kathak and bharatanatyam. I have been basically dancing my entire life. My days would be going to school, homework, and dance practice – that included bharatanaty/kathak practice or practicing for upcoming performances/competitions. I had always wanted to be a doctor. For me the two were not one or the either, but being able to excel in school and enjoy my passion for dance. I had always since I can remember thought I would become a doctor. I decided on Emergency Med in high school and started volunteering at my local ER. As I pursued medicine, dancing became a type of movement meditation and stress relief. I tried to find time to dance as much as I could. In high school, I was teaching dance and performing. In college, I co founded UCLA’s hindi film dance team and Southern California’s first intercollegiate bollywood dance competition. I continued my passion for dance in medical school and even up until recently. I joined a dance company for a performance at the Lincoln Center in NYC. 

  1. When was the first time you performed, and what part of that experience do you still carry with you?

 Ahh.. when I was around 7 years old! I was so nervous to be on stage with all those people watching!  one thing I learned during that performance was to focus on the performance and learn to ignore all the eyes that were on me. I think that was one of the biggest lessons from that performance that I carried with me throughout my dance career. 

  1. Such creative journeys often face great challenges and successes. What event(s) inspired or challenged you personally to pursue dance and coaching, and incorporating that into your medical training? 

Dance was my passion and love. I think how I felt after dancing inspired me to continue dancing at every stage of my life. It is a great workout, it is a great stress relief, and it makes me happy. For these reasons, I made sure to incorporate dance no matter where I was in my life or what I was doing in my life. Just like I made time to shower, see my friends, etc during my medical journey… I made similar time for dancing.  

  1. How do you blend your work in dance and in medicine? What’s one piece of advice you can share for those aspiring artist-physicians? 

I can say do not give up. If you enjoy it, do it and it will make your journey in everything else you do much more successful. I truly believe to accomplish our goals we must be happy and learn to manage our stress and dance helped me with that! 


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