Every week we will be featuring a professional on our page. Take a peek inside the lives of top artists & athletes and get advice from certified health professionals. These inspiring super-humans will be sharing their stories while dishing out their favorite wellness advice to our readers.
Wait, what exactly is "wellness"?
Wellness is a verb. It is a multidimensional evolving process - physical, occupational, social, spiritual, emotional, & intellectual.
We are ALL athletes & artists
Brandon Cournay | Executive Artistic Director of Dance Device Lab | Associate Artistic Director of Keigwin + Company
Eliza Ohman | Universal Swing in HAMILTON
Tina Fermano | NYC Board Certified Dermatology PA
Jazmine Kwong, PA-S
Dance & Medicine
Ta'u Pupu'a | Former NFL player, Juilliard graduate, and current international opera singer
Olympic Medalist | American Women's Saber Team | Instagram: @monicaaksamit
Adam Enticknap | 722 | Professional Supercross rider | When a passion for riding & a talent for rap come together in perfect harmony | Instagram: @the722
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Meet someone we think you should know, Jazmine Kwong. Jazmine is training to be a Physician Assistant in & out of the classroom. For our readers who are not familiar, the Physician Assistant school application process is extremely competitive & once accepted, requires intense personal discipline & skill in order to reach the finish line. With little time outside of the classroom, how does one maintain one's physical & mental health? Jazmine explained how she trains outside of the classroom, "Before PA school, I made it a priority to attend a dance class at least twice a week. It was a little tough for the first few weeks, but it all worked out."
When she isn't busy in Physician Assistant school or in the dance studio, she is using what little free time she has to inspire others. With multiple platforms & a growing following, Jazmine is on a mission to create an impact. Her Instagram account & website aim to help Pre-PAs navigate their way through the application process. From our observations, she utilizes her platform to do more than that. Her followers include prospective medical students in multiple disciplines & her page is supportive, informative, & motivational.
Jazmine's story transcends the medical disciplines. A three-time applicant, her tenacity is admirable. She shared with us how "Some people & programs (yes, programs) suggested I pursue a different healthcare profession. I said NO." The journey Jazmine took to get to where she is now demonstrates a perseverance that can inspire all Athletes & Artists.
Want to know more? Keep reading.
Q: One of our favorite mantras is "grow through what you go through" & you have recently lived that. Being a successful three-time applicant for PA school demonstrates your ability to hustle & persevere. How have you grown through your journey?
A: Rejection hurts. I was broken hearted after my first year of applications & even more so my second year. I applied to 4 schools my first year & I received 4 rejections. I applied to 8 my second year, 8 rejections after 1 interview. My last year, I applied to 12 & received 7 rejections. It stung every time. I cried & I questioned my worth. Some people & programs (yes, programs) suggested I pursue a different healthcare profession. I said NO. I WILL become a Physician Assistant. No matter how long it takes. I sulked for a day or so & moved forward.
Each year, I learned more & more about myself, my weaknesses & my strengths. I came to realize that it wasn’t another year of waiting, it’s another year of improvement & another year of personal growth. I’ve learned to be proud & to embrace my journey.
Q: It is such an inspiring story that all athletes & artists can relate to - if there is one thing our readers could learn from your journey what would it be?
A: Whether your goal is to make the team, become a captain or some type of leader on the team, get into PA school or to land the lead role - It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN.
Q: Who is the first person you told when you found out you were accepted?
A: I texted my family group chat first because I was in the operating room (OR). I remember hyperventilating into my face mask as a Neuromonitor Tech in the OR. My eyes welled with tears but I had to fight back my emotions because I was troubleshooting my equipment during spine surgery. I couldn’t cry or else I’d freak out everyone in the OR! This the best & weirdest feeling ever.
Q: What drew you to dance & medicine in the first place?
A: My mom was on the dance drill team in high school & I followed her footsteps. I fell in love with dance in high school & decided to continue dance in college. I joined a hip-hop dance team called Common Ground & competed all over California. Initially, I was a dance major but soon realized that I was competing against prima ballerinas in the dance program. I’ve always wanted to become something medically related - but I wasn’t sure & thought Neuroscience sounded really cool. So I went for it!
As a junior in college, I was Pre-Med & also Pre-PA - I wasn’t completely sure of which path to take. After shadowing PAs & doctors, I realized that the PA profession was the right fit for me.
Q: I love that you are so passionate about both dance & medicine. Do you find there is a connection between the two disciplines?
A: Yes! I actually wrote about how these two disciplines are practically analogous in my life in my personal statement for PA school! Here’s a little excerpt:
"BOOM. BOOM KAK. BOOM. BOOM KAK. The bass drum boomed and snare drum cracked. The audience roared with glee as we walked onto the stage. We, the dancers, responded with energetic movements that radiated great control and passion. A new beat resonated through the arena and the audience erupted in admiration. I had never felt so alive.
I felt this same electricity when I shadowed a PA and was able to contribute to a diagnosis! I paralleled my teammates on the dance team with the healthcare team in medicine. Collaboration and communication are key to both disciplines! When something goes wrong on stage, I have to adapt quickly and keep the show going. Same goes for medicine - adapt, use your resources and make it work!"
Q: They say the first year of PA school is like trying to drink water through a firehose. How do you find time to take care of your body while in such a demanding program? What are some of your favorite ways to stay healthy both physically & mentally?
A: This saying is absolutely true! My mental health is just as important as my physical health! Before PA school, I made it a priority to attend a dance class at least twice a week. It was a little tough for the first few weeks, but it all worked out! I am so thankful to have dance as an outlet! I realized that my brain reaches its capacity after 5 hours of studying - so why not dance?! I love taking aerial arts classes like pole, lyra, & silks. Every now & then, I put on my gloves & box! When I’m not being active, Netflix & Hulu are my go-to’s for mental breaks.
Q: What is your go-to healthy snack & drink?
A: I love KIX cereal - I’m always snacking in class! My favorite drink is Matcha latte with almond milk!
Q: We are big believers that medical professionals are athletes & artists seeing as practicing medicine requires discipline & creativity. Is there a moment in your training that you can relate this similarity to?
A: As a dancer in the medical field, I always find commonalities within these two disciplines! Number 1) Teamwork makes the dream work! 2) Adaptability & being resourceful are key traits in both 3) Creativity is encouraged & lastly, 4) You’re a provider. Provider of care, provider of intention, provider of empathy, & provider of artistry.
Q:What does being an Athlete & Artist mean to you?
A: An Athlete & Artist is multi-faceted and inspiring!
Q: What does "Training Tibia PA" mean to you?
A: The best pun ever! I’m thrilled to be a PA student & I’m exhilarated to make my mark & to advocate for this profession!
Thank you for sharing your story with our readers, Jazmine. Cannot wait to see that "PA-C" appear after your name, soon!
My life motto is... there’s always room for dessert!
I'm inspired by… my momma!
I feel like the best version of me when… I wake up early on the weekends and I’m productive! lol
My go-to stress reliever is… hanging out with my family.
Favorite healthy habit… is going to dance class!
My go-to workout is… aerial arts like pole, lyra, and silks!
When I'm not working you can find me... shaking my booty to live music at concerts!
Something that always makes me smile is... seeing our rescue dog, Carter.
My mornings are not complete without... matcha lattes!
I feel most confident when… I’m performing a dance routine.
My spirit animal is… a giraffe.
A renaissance man is a person with many talents & areas of knowledge. Never met one? Well let me introduce you to Brandon Cournay. Brandon is a man of many talents. He is a dancer, choreographer, master teacher, cultural ambassador, Juilliard alumnus, & the Associate Artistic Director of Keigwin + Company. In 2017 he flexed his creative muscles in another area of knowledge – entrepreneurship.
Brandon is forward thinking. The company he created, Dance Device Lab, is positioned to be an industry disruptor. The innovative business model provides experienced & professional guest teachers to studios nationwide. DDL also takes care of everything from booking the talent to arranging travel - for busy small business owners this is a huge time saver. While the company offers an array of options including classes, intensives, & adjudications, the most impressive thing it offers is a genuine focus on the students’ artistic development. Brandon's equal passion for the recreational to the pre-professional student sets DDL apart from the current industry landscape. "I want to inspire students to keep dance in their lives forever. All DDL events focus on skills that are transferable inside & outside of the studio. These skills will stick with dancers forever. Whether you are a professional dancer, audience member, or patron; you will have a deeper understanding of creation & process."
Athletes & Artists had the opportunity to speak with Brandon & we are so excited to share his story with you. We discussed his journey from Small-town, Michigan to Juilliard & learnt of how his professional dance experience has inspired him to help shape the next generation through his new company, Dance Device Lab. Read our full interview below to get the exclusive story!
Want to know more? Check out these websites...
Please note, our interview has been edited for flow & readability.
J: Tell me about Africa, what were you doing over there?
Brandon: Have you heard of DanceMotion USA?
Brandon: KEIGWIN + COMPANY (K+C) was on tour with DanceMotion USA, which is co-produced by the US State Department & BAM. Each year they send three American dance companies to different places in the world - one goes to Africa, one goes to South East Asia, & one goes to Central & South America. While on tour, we were considered “cultural ambassadors.” The idea is that artists have a unique opportunity affect change in ways that politicians or government officials can not. We went to Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, & Tunisia where we taught & performed for four and a half weeks. It was very humbling, life changing, & perspective shifting. Dance is a universal language which is why this program has been so successful & impactful.
J: Many of our readers are young male performers. So I wanted to ask you a few questions about how you got started. Can you tell me about your early years, when you decided you wanted to be a performer?
B: In 5th grade there was an invite-only after school musical camp where all of the schools in our district got together to perform a musical. I was invited to join which was a surprise to me because I never fit into anything. The choreographer of the show taught at a local dance studio. Of course, I’ll never know if she was just trying to recruit a new boy or if she actually saw something in me, but she did encourage me to dance & this after-school program became a pivotal moment in my life. I am so thankful for my incredible parents for letting their weird little boy dance. My mom enrolled my in an once-a-week all boys jazz class & it snowballed from there. The studio that I went to, in this small town in Michigan, had about 100 boys taking dance class, which was encouraging for everyone, I think!
J: Wow, that is impressive.
B: Yes! There is still a strong male dance program there today. I now realize how special that was. I was never the only boy in my dance classes so it was wonderful comradery. I would have older boys to look up to growing up & then you have to turn the table to mentor the younger boys. It was very nurturing & supportive.
J: What made you go for Juilliard, when did you realize that was an attainable goal?
B: You know, I actually never did. It was not on my radar because I never had a plan to go to college, it all just happened. A lot of people from my studio worked for Disney & cruise ships, so I thought that was what I was going to do. It’s just what you DID. I happened to be in Chicago for a ballet competition (WHY?!) around the same time as the Juilliard audition. My teacher told me to just go to the audition while I was there, she was a big believer in learning from audition experiences. So I went, did Bon Jovi “It’s My Life” the techno remix as my audition solo, somehow didn’t get laughed at, & miraculously got in.
J: I wish I could have seen that solo! So you got into The Juilliard School, how did that transition go?
B: Honestly, not well. I was really a fish out of water. I was a competition kid & before Juilliard I had not taken a real modern class in my life. It took me two years to really find my footing. In addition to transitioning to life at college, I was also severely struggling with my sexuality & coming out of the closet. The first two years of college for me were not good, I had zero sense of identity. However, once I came out my entire life changed. I was happy, my dancing improved immediately & immensely, & ironically, I had confidence. Going to Juilliard was a huge fork in the road for me. Looking back, I had always gravitated toward the contemporary classes & teachers at conventions. I now realize that contemporary movement is actually what my body is suited for and is the way my mind works. But, at the time, didn’t know any better because I didn’t have access to creative movement & modern dance in Small-Town, Michigan. When I got to Juilliard it opened my mind & my potential to opportunities I didn’t even know were available to me.
J: I’ve noticed a lot of studios don’t offer modern because of supply & demand. If the students don’t already know what it is then they won’t sign up.
B: It’s hard. So many studios are driven by the students’ interests, & competitions & So You Think You Can Dance are so important to them. It’s about winning & not the process, & if you don’t follow through, you lose students. Dancers don’t want to be trained in a slow cooker, they want to be microwaved.
J: What are some of your favorite moments from your performance career?
B: I have been so fortunate throughout my career & I am so thankful for all of the memories & adventures. The highlights include: Touring to Europe for the first time with Juilliard Dance, K+C’s performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, dancing Mark Morris’ masterpiece, “L'allegro il Penseroso ed il Moderato” in Madrid and having it aired on PBS’ Great Performances Series & performing a new work we created alongside dancers from Tunis on K+C’s DanceMotion USA tour.
B: I am so excited by it! I came up with the idea based on an experience I had developing curriculum at a studio I taught at over a few summers. This particular studio is in a remote location in Michigan & does not have access to contemporary dance. I was brought in to introduce the dancers to contemporary movement & ideas. I started teaching there five years ago & have been back every summer since & it has become an annual intimate Summer Intensive with the dancers & myself. Since I am the only contemporary teacher they have worked with in their studio, I have been able to gauge & see the progression of the students year to year. The younger dancers I started with are now the older dancers & there is a trickle down effect in their training. The new littles ones are exposed to contemporary dance much earlier by watching the older dancers & are way more advanced than the original younger group, just by observing! They get it & are receptive to it. The choreography I can do there is night & day from what I could do a couple years ago. I was inspired to codify what we had developed & share it with studios throughout the country.
J: Why is this approach so important to dance education?
B: I’ve noticed that the typical structure of a master class is where someone goes in, gives a mediocre warm up, teaches a combo, posts the combo on YouTube & leaves. To me, this feels self-indulgent & is not the best way to serve students. I really like sharing the creative experience with my students & tying it in to the class.
DDL’s mission is rooted in the ideas of creative thinking & risk taking. I want to visit studios & introduce dancers to things they may not have where they come from; To plant a seed of inspiration to think a more independently & artistically. I want them to know that there is another path out there before they have to make a decision about going to college or not. Using DDL as a vessel, I want to share my unique path because I truly just fell into it. I think I would have enjoyed the ride more if I had been introduced to these ideas sooner.
In addition, I want to inspire students to keep dance in their lives forever. All DDL events focus on skills that are transferable inside & outside of the studio. These skills will stick with dancers forever. Whether you are a professional dancer, audience member, or patron; you will have a deeper understanding of creation & process.
B: I truly consider it an honor to have the gift of movement & physical expression. So many stars have to align to live this life, & I am forever grateful. Dance encourages empathy & it means the world to me to be able to share art & movement all over the world.
When it comes to the award winning & culturally rich Broadway musical HAMILTON, Eliza Ohman has quite literally been in the room where it happens. Well multiple rooms. As universal swing, Eliza is prepared to perform as all female ensemble tracks in the Broadway, Chicago, & tour productions. Yes, that is about 15 different tracks she has trained for & memorized - talk about an athlete & artist.
In case you aren't familiar, HAMILTON is a Broadway production about U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. If you are new to musical theatre, HAMILTON is a great introduction. The energy is incredible. The show reaches beyond the traditional Broadway audience by utilizing different musical styles in the score including rap, hip-hop, blues, jazz, & more. It all comes together to tell the story of America then, told by & for America now.
Eliza Ohman is no stranger to the spotlight having worked consistently as a professional dancer for the past three years. With her 2016 Broadway debut as the Universal Swing in HAMILTON, she has demonstrated her mental, physical, & artistic strengths. A universal swing is one of the most demanding Broadway jobs out there, so take note, she is definitely someone to watch.
Athletes & Artists had the opportunity to interview Eliza earlier this spring and we are so excited to share her story with our readers. How does she stay in shape mentally and physically? What exactly is a universal swing? What advice does she offer? What is it like to be a part of the cultural phenomenon that is HAMILTON? Read our full interview below to get the inside scoop!
Want to know more? Check out these websites...
HAMILTON is based on the biography written by Ron Chernow. Book, music, & lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Direction by Thomas Kail. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Musical direction & orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire.
Interview has been edited for flow & readability
Q: What was your training like when you were growing up?
A: I grew up in Parker, CO and I went to a local dance studio there where I started dancing when I was three. I have an older sister who danced and so I wanted to dance. I took ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, lyrical, modern, basically everything under the sun, and that’s like all I ever did. I never played soccer as a kid, I just danced all the time. I had always been into dance because I watched Singing in the Rain. My family and I checked Singing in the Rain out from the library every single week until they finally just gave it to us because we were the only ones that checked it out. So I always loved to dance and loved movement and I just like idolized the song and dance movie musicals of the MGM era. When I got the chance to start dancing, it was all I wanted.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to do musical theatre?
A: Honestly no, I didn’t. I did the community theatre that was available a couple times when I was really young, maybe like 8 or 9, but I didn’t do musicals in high school or middle school. I knew I wanted to dance but I didn’t really know what that would look like professionally. My dance studio was very focused on the art of dance rather than the glitz and glamor of it. So, even when I was in high school looking at college dance program it never even crossed my mind to look at musical theatre as something that you majored in because I didn’t know anyone that had done that and that wasn’t something that was talked about in my studio. So I looked at dance programs and then I just thought about living in a city where there was dance.
Q: A lot of our readers are teenagers who dance and they are faced with that same dilemma. Should they go to school for dance, where should they go, should they go at all? What made you decide to go where you went and if you could go back would you do it all over again or would you choose a different path?
A: I actually didn’t even end up studying dance in school, I got into dance professionally in a very roundabout way. I was looking at all of the big conservatory programs and I basically put a pin on NY, drew a circle on it, and was like this is where I want to be. I looked at schools there and ultimately my first pick had been Juilliard for their dance program. Then I didn’t end up getting into Juilliard and I had only applied to one other school - the school my mom had wanted me to apply to - a private liberal arts college in NY but they didn’t have a dance program. I mean they had three majors and I was like “oh my gosh that sounds terrible I don’t want to go there at all” but I kind of was out of options and then I was like "I'll be in NY I will go to school for a year and then I will probably end up auditioning in the city, do it that way, and not get a college degree." But then I ended up really loving my school, loving the program, and realized because I had only ever danced I didn’t really know who I was apart from dance. So for me I really needed to have that space away from it. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Culture, and the Arts so it's essentially an art history cultural studies degree that focuses on philosophical movements within art and how everything is intertwined in that way. It was really enlightening and also gave me a new perspective on dance and kind of like a bigger view vs. what I had grown up with which was a microscope on dance.
Knowing what I know now, I would do it again because that program and that time in my life was something I really needed and I didn’t get back into dance until my last semester of college. So as far as young teenagers who are thinking about what to do, and what’s the right thing, and where do I go, I think that there’s a lot of freedom knowing that every person I know in the business has gotten there a different way.
Q: So you made your Broadway debut in 2016 with Hamilton (Congrats!) if you could describe that experience in three words, what would they be?
A: I would say humbling, surreal, and oh gosh I don’t know… I guess a dream.
Q: Who was the first person you told when you found out you got the show?
A: My husband. He was at work when I got the call so I was at home alone in my apartment. And I was like “oh my gosh, I have to tell Josh I can't tell anyone else before him!” He was working about 10 blocks from where we live and so I walked down there and I stood outside the door and I waved. He knew I had my final audition that day, and he looked at me and then I just I started crying and he ran out of work and gave me a hug.
Q: Here at Athletes & Artists we believe that every artist is an athlete. You transitioned from strictly dance performance to a musical theatre career, adding the element of singing. What about your training has changed and what do you do to stay in top performance shape?
A: I realized that singing a three-hour musical while dancing requires a lot more stamina than I had ever experienced before. So I think you get a lot of cardio just by virtue of being in a show. What I do on the side is I have a gym membership and because I grew up dancing I function really well in a class structure. I use my gym membership to take like Pilates and hot yoga classes because I find that those, hot yoga in particular, really push you but also helps expand your lung capacity because it is so focused on breath and you are in a heated room so that has made a big difference for me. I also will do light cardio on an elliptical or a bike for a little bit and then do a lot of core strengthening exercises on my own because when you are wearing a corset and dancing and singing for three hours you have to really make sure that everything is supported and coming from the right place. Also just eating well and knowing where to time your meals makes a big difference; 6 small meals over the course of a day, having lots of snacks that are easy to digest but can provide quick bits of energy. I especially have to have something during intermission or else I will starve.
Q: What is your favorite snack to have during intermission?
A: Hamilton is a funny show because we are constantly getting stuff sent to us. A really popular item that gets sent to the theatre are Schmackary's Cookies. But I really like apples and peanut butter so I usually cut up an apple before I leave the house and have a jar of peanut butter at my station at the theatre, that is a quick and easy snack.
Q: I’m really excited to have you featured here on Athletes & Artists because you are the Universal Swing and I think a lot of people out there don’t even know what that is.
E: Yeah, I definitely didn’t know what that was until I got the offer.
Q: Can you tell our readers a little bit more about what a Universal Swing does and how much mental strength that position requires?
A: OK. A Swing is someone who covers any number of ensemble tracks in a show. They are part of the offstage company that would step in at any point in time if a dancer is sick, or injured, or on vacation - anytime that they are not on stage. So in Hamilton there are five female ensemble parts and I cover all five of those girls. As a universal swing that means that in addition to the Broadway company I cover every incarnation of the show so that includes the Chicago production and what is now in rehearsals which will be the west coast production. So it kind of ends up feeling like 15 tracks instead of five because each city isn’t a carbon copy. There are some differences in vocal parts because as a swing in addition to swinging the dancing and all the staging, you are also having to sing whatever their vocal parts are. In the show the girls are constantly flopping around between soprano, second soprano, and alto, no one is ever just singing just one vocal part so you have to know all of their vocal tracks. For example in San Francisco, for the west coast production, two vocal parts are flipped. So you’ll be dancing the same track as someone in NY while singing a different track. As a swing I associate particular movements and particular staging with particular vocal parts so then it is kind of like a mental challenge almost. It’s like playing Sudoku where I am filling in the puzzle pieces.
Q: What is the most athletic moment of the show for you (on any of the tracks)?
A: I think it is a toss up between "The Battle of Yorktown" and "The Room Where it Happens." "The Battle of Yorktown" is such a fun moment in our show and it is physically challenging because it has a huge dance break. It is really athletic choreography and we’re wearing heavy coats because we are playing soldiers in that moment, that adds a lot of extra weight to your body that you are not used to when you are just learning and taking class on your own. In addition to that, we do this huge dance break and then we end the song in very difficult singing where the sopranos are belting - and they are belting really high - and they are belting really high repeatedly - and you’re holding out these huge notes. That’s a moment in the show where you really know whether or not you have been doing what you need to offstage to be able to swing into that moment and feel comfortable. Similarly, "The Room Where it Happens" is like a 6-minute number and it’s really danced all the way through. It’s a little bit of scene work and then a dance chorus and then a little scene and a big dance chorus and then it just keeps building and results in a huge chorus where even the principles are dancing - which happens very regularly in our show. Also in that number there is no moment where you are dancing and not singing full voice. Those two moments really, they’ll get ya, they’ll sneak up on you if you’re not ready.
Q: What comes next for you after HAMILTON?
A: You dream of something, but you don't know if it is going to happen. Even though I never thought to pursue musical theatre in school, I always dreamed of Broadway. So the fact that this is what I am doing now is so unexpected & magical.
It's hard to think about what is after this. If I've learned anything in the business it is that everything we get to do is a gift & nothing is guaranteed. So I am trying to savor this experience.
My goal has always been to be paid to do what I love. So after HAMILTON I hope to continue to do that & be a part of another show like this. That we recognize how special it is & is with another special group of people. This has been such a beautiful experience that it will be hard to match.
That's the dream, that's the goal.
My life motto is... go big or go home, & eat ice cream.
I'm inspired by... young minds engaging with art.
I feel like the best version of me when... I trust myself, or after a 3 hour nap :).
My go to stress reliever is... cuddling with my dog.
Favorite healthy habit... stretching before I go to bed.
My go to workout is... hot yoga.
When I'm not working you can find me... at the movies.
Something that always makes me smile is... old Friends episodes.
My mornings are not complete without... a smoothie and music!
I feel most confident when... I'm onstage.
My spirit animal is... a lion!
Be sure to follow Eliza's journey on Instagram @ElizaOhman and on Twitter @Eliza_Ohman for all things Eliza, Broadway, & the city!
Athletes and artists need to maintain healthy lifestyles in order to perform at their best. With the skin being the largest organ of the body, skincare should not be overlooked on the road to success. For our first feature we get to know our favorite Board Certified Dermatology Professional in NYC, Tina Fermano, receive some helpful tips along the way, and discover how she is an artist herself!
Since the beginning, Tina wanted to pursue medicine as a career. She was very young when she first became fascinated with science and medicine. While many little girls look up to their grandmothers, Tina’s grandmother made a lasting impact and inspired a lifelong passion and career in her granddaughter. Tina explained, “I like to think it came from Grandma Mariam. She was Armenian and grew up in Syria after her parents escaped the genocide in Turkey. She became somewhat of the town's nurse and seamstress. She administered vaccines, created natural remedies for children, among many other things. Above all, she was the kindest and most loving woman I have ever known.”
Tina took that fascination and applied it in school. Excelling in science, she graduated from Rutgers with a degree in Biology. From there she pursued and completed PA school. She now practices medicine in NYC and offers helpful skincare advice online to her impressive Instagram following @TheSkin.NY. Tina described, “Once I decided on PA school, I was certain dermatology was for me. Now I cut out skin cancers and, when suturing, smile while thinking of my nana.”
Read our interview below….
Q: When deciding between medical school and PA school, what factors helped you pick the best path for you?
Tina: At the time, this felt like the decision of a lifetime. Having always been set on medical school, I was worried I would feel unsatisfied that I was "just a PA." I pushed for more answers. What is the difference? What can a doctor do that a PA can't do? So on and so forth. I shadowed both physicians and PAs and came to realize it was not about the title, but rather the level of care and compassion you can give your patients. In some instances, I found PAs to have more time to spend with patients and thus built closer relationships with their patients. To say this was an easy choice is an understatement. I was unsure until I went on interviews for both. I prayed for some guidance and sure enough, I got into PA school the day after my interview, which was rare. I sent in my acceptance, knowing it was the right choice for me. I took a leap of faith and there is never a day that I regret this choice or wonder how things would've been if I accepted med school as my path. Being a PA is perfect for me. I love what I do and have a perfect life balance, with no loans! I was able to pay for school quickly, which is a definitely plus. Also, being a PA is more flexible, allowing you to switch specialties as you're trained in all fields of medicine in school. Although I can't see myself doing anything but dermatology, I find it refreshing to know I could get a part time job in the ER tomorrow if I wanted to!
Q: Just like athletes and artists, practicing Medicine requires discipline and creativity. Is there a moment in your training or practice that you can relate this similarity to?
Tina: Good question and yes, cosmetic dermatology is a lot like art. You're taught the basics with training sessions, but it takes a good hand and better eye to visualize your end result prior to even starting. Each patient presents a blank canvas, one for you to do your (art)work. With practice and precision, you learn what works and what doesn't. More importantly, you learn to modify the rules to fit your specific patients' needs. Anyone can hold a syringe of filler but not everyone can make their patient walk out feeling more beautiful than when they came in. That, in itself, is an art.
Q: I love that you get to be creative; most people don't realize that medicine can have that artistic outlet. How did you know dermatology was the field for you so early in your career?
Tina: I had acne in my early twenties. I thought I was the lucky one in high school, having gone 4 years with hardly a breakout. Then came my 20s. Hello hormonal acne! I was at the derm office pretty frequently, getting cysts injected, trying new creams, pills! Luckily, I didn't scar after my acne resolved. When I rotated through dermatology, I was floored by the number of alternative options to clear acne and acne scars. I was introduced to the world of lasers and injectables and that sealed the deal. I knew it was for me. With a healthy mix of medical dermatology (rashes, skin cancer screenings, etc.) and cosmetic dermatology (Botox, lasers, fillers, etc.), I have found the perfect career fit.
Passion, medicine, drive – Tina is so perfect for A&A!
Performers sweat while wearing makeup, what habits or skincare routines do you suggest they pick up?
Tina: Skip the primers, wash your face immediately after a performance. Use makeup wipes and medicated pads or creams to control breakouts.
What makeup remover is best to use daily to take care of the skin (and possibly prevent breakouts)?
Tina: Any is okay! My favorite is using Neutrogena or Honest Company makeup wipes, followed by a mildly exfoliating cleanser to ensure all makeup has been removed.
Many athletes apply makeup directly after games for press or events, is this ok to do after sweating so much?
Tina: Using noncomedogenic make up is your best choice but even with it, breakouts may occur since your pores never get a chance to breathe!
Do you have any advice for athletes and artists on tour, who are often traveling in trains, busses, and planes?
Tina: Clean your phone screens, wash your hands, don't pick your skin, drink lots of water, and sleep at least 7-8 hours a night. Be sure to change your pillowcase every few days. Also, use antibiotic pads (prescribed by your derm) and get chemical peels once a month!
My life motto is... do all things with love. Be patient with others, forgive quickly, and love yourself. Do things that make you happy and leave others smiling when you leave them.
I'm inspired by... educated and driven women who work hard to be successful both in their careers and as mothers.
I feel like the best version of me when... I remind myself how precious life is and continue to appreciate everything I've been given and everything I have achieved. Maintaining humility in this world is one of my priorities in life.
Favorite healthy habit... sleeping 8 hours a night! So important for your mind and overall health.
My go to workout is... dance! I grew up dancing tap, jazz, and ballet... it's in my bones, literally! Put on a beat and I'll shake my booty! Nothing more fun than that to burn calories.
When I'm not working you can find me... reading a good book, exploring NYC with my husband, or catching up with my family!
Something that always makes me smile is... a cup of cappuccino made by my husband!
My mornings aren't complete without... applying my daily sunscreen! SPF 30 every single day of the year!
My spirit animal is... to be determined. :)
Be sure to follow Tina's journey on Instagram @TheSkin.NY for all things Tina, skin, & the city!