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A few months ago, my M-Home House Counselor shared some advice. To paraphrase, he said during medical school you spend a lot of time studying, so finding well-being may mean prioritizing some activities that truly make you happy, and then scheduling studying around those activities. That morsel of advice motivated me to find ways to incorporate one of my lifelong passions, dancing ballet, into my schedule.

Luckily, I did not have to look far to find ways to dance. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to choreograph a ballet dance for Biorhythms, the biannual student-run dance performance (proceeds from the show are donated to charity). To prepare for the performance, I met with medical school peers for an hour each week to teach the choreography. It felt absolutely incredible that I was able to grow as an artist and choreographer while in medical school. Furthermore, the friendships that my classmates and I formed while dancing (and laughing) made the weekly study break priceless.

A pre-Biorhythms performance photo with my friends.

In addition to Biorhythms, I have attended a few ballet classes at a local studio. Recently while practicing a difficult ballet combination, I smiled thinking about how my movements related to the biochemistry and anatomy that I learned in lecture. I felt the burn of lactate build as my muscles used anaerobic metabolism, and I named the muscles in my back that helped me maintain correct shoulder placement. Already, I was seeing through the lens of medicine, and medicine was enriching my understanding of dance!

Finally, participating in an event that shared the joy of dancing with patients was particularly rewarding. Last year, my friends and I performed excerpts from the Nutcracker ballet during a dinner organized by the Child and Family Life team at University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital. It felt very special that our dancing could bring smiles to young patients and their families. This year, that tradition continued. After a long day of lectures, I walked over to the children’s hospital and felt my own sense of joy as I watched my friends spread the magic of dancing to patients and families.

Long before I was a medical student, I was a ballet dancer. Now, I am so thankful to have opportunities to explore intersections of my interests, and to have a support network that encourages me to continue dancing as I develop into a well-rounded future health professional. Wherever the journey of medical school takes me, I am excited to be dancing into this next phase of my life.

Paulina (rhymes with ballerina) is an M1 student especially interested in women’s health. You can find her sipping coffee somewhere in Taubman Health Sciences Library.