Two elements have been at the core of Mimi Lamantia's life — her love of dance and her desire to help others heal.
At Ohio State, she discovered how her two life foundations connect to create remarkable outcomes.
"My freshman year I was taking a dance education class, and my professor was talking not only about how dance is being taught and used in schools, but also in the medical field," she said. "I also met (faculty member) Lise (Worthen-Chaudhari) that year, which was crucial because it gave me an immediate connection with the medical center.
"That was all facilitated via the Department of Dance and the curriculum that they already have laid out to promote a multidisciplinary education within a dance education."
With a foundation in the arts and medicine established, Lamantia got to work exploring the intersections of dance and medicine. She had an able guide and mentor in Worthen-Chaudhari, a former dancer and research scientist, who served as associate director of the Human Motion Analysis and Recovery Laboratory within Dodd Hall at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Worthen-Chaudhari's lab was the perfect place for Lamantia to cultivate her ideas about dance and the ways it could help people with movement challenges.
She began to take a particular interest in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), which causes pain and imbalance for those who have survived cancer. Up to 60 percent of survivors who've had chemotherapy suffer from CIPN.
While there had been significant research on how dance can be used to treat things such as Parkinson's disease, its effectiveness in treating CIPN was largely unexplored. Lamantia dug into this research, creating a project that won first prize in Ohio State's Denman Undergraduate Research Forum, and was subsequently selected to represent the university at the 2016 Universitas 21 (U21) Research Conference in Monterrey, Mexico.
These findings set the stage for her program Argentine Tango for Cancer Survivors, which earned funding as a part of the Pelotonia Fellowship. The intervention was comprised a three 10-week sessions in which those participating used the tango to improve their movement and balance.
The result? Participants reported a 56 percent improvement in their balance. "Seeing it succeed for someone recovering from cancer was absolutely phenomenal," Lamantia said.
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With nationally ranked degree programs at the forefront of contemporary dance, Ohio State's Department of Dance integrates movement practice, creative process and theoretical inquiry. Dance students train to be performers, choreographers, digital artists, dance filmmakers, teachers, scholars, writers, designers, production managers and arts entrepreneurs. Dance faculty members win international acclaim as art makers, scholars and innovators in dance technology; and dance graduates become visionaries in the dance field and in their communities.
Dance goes beyond performance at Ohio State. The department's partnerships with the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) and Wexner Medical Center support student and faculty interdisciplinary research. The Ohio State University Sports Medicine's Performing Arts Medicine team (PAM) addresses the special needs of the performing artist/athlete within the department.
Just more than 2,000 steps from the Department of Dance is the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, a hospital that's been ranked among nation's best for 25 consecutive years. The hospital is nationally ranked in seven specialties, a point that's reflective of the intellectual talent available to Ohio State students.
The university offers a wide range of opportunities for students to connect with career interests in health-related fields. It has seven colleges devoted specifically to health-related fields and numerous majors that open doors of opportunity for those interested in helping others live healthier lives.
Research opportunities are not always easy to come by for undergraduate students, but that's not the case at Ohio State. Since 1995, thousands of undergrads across all disciplines have participated in the annual Denman Research Forum.
These young researchers share their discoveries with experienced judges who offer feedback and guidance. The forum is hosted at Ohio State's Recreation and Physical Activity Center and features presentations in 11 categories and hundreds of subcategories.
Pelotonia has raised more than $150 million for cancer research since its inception in 2008. The annual central Ohio bike ride and grassroots movement also has created valuable research opportunities for Ohio State students — including undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers — interested in joining the fight for a cure.
Money raised by the ride's thousands of participants supports the Pelotonia Fellowship Program, which provides a wide range of cancer research opportunities for Ohio State students. To date, more than 430 students have had their cancer research funded by Pelotonia.
This year, 43 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students received grants that are supporting their cancer research. The fellowships enable students to conduct research at Ohio State and also at cancer labs around the country and world.
"The impact of these scholarships actually goes deeper than providing students with a unique opportunity to do cancer research," says Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.