A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Having a Ball


Teaching dance makes for better patient care.

When Liliana Luna-Nelson ’17 MD’21 was 5 years old, her father, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Cincinnati, brought her to the hospital for Take Your Daughter to Work Day. When she got home, Luna-Nelson told her mother—a professional soprano—that she wanted to be a doctor, not a musician.

“She asked me why and I said, I think it would be easier,” Luna-Nelson laughs. “She was like, you got that right.” Though it’s hardly been easy, she has realized that dream—she begins her psychiatry residency this summer at the University of Rochester—while also keeping music in her life.

At age 17, Luna-Nelson “started crashing the University of Cincinnati swing dance club and totally fell in love with it.” A local swing scene became a prerequisite for college; after being accepted into the PLME, she made sure Brown had a club too.

“That was absolutely my friend group and became my social life,” she says. The neuroscience concentrator was dancing up to four nights a week, learning and teaching Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, and Balboa. Throughout med school, she taught private lessons at a local studio, whose flexible boss worked around Luna-Nelson’s demanding schedule. The experience readied her for a career that hinges on communication and connection.

“Teaching dance really highlighted the need to focus not only on what you are saying to someone, but how you say it, how you teach it, what they’re ready for,” she says. “That maps so beautifully onto patient care and patient interaction.”


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