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New MMC Center Helps Students Find Creative Paths in Health Care

  • MMC’s Center for Health, Human Development, and Creativity is a hub for students and faculty from a broad range of disciplines who share an interest in health topics.

Professor Nava Silton has had a varied career in health and human development. She’s created graphic novels about the adventures of children with visible and invisible disabilities and produced an off-Broadway musical about disabilities and bullying. Levar Burton and The Jim Henson Company are developing two of her projects for the small screen.

But she wouldn’t have been able to envision it in her early days as a premed student; back then, she thought building a career in health meant following a narrow professional track. “I remember thinking, okay, maybe I’ll be a physician or teach in a medical school,” she said. “I’d always been creative, but I never thought it would relate to any professional goals I’d have in health.”

That changed when she took a developmental psychology class that showed her how rich and exciting the field could be and worked with a professor who helped her realize that creativity could be an asset in health—and not just a passion she pursued on the side.

Now, as the director of MMC’s new Center for Health, Human Development, and Creativity, Dr. Silton is helping Marymount Manhattan students reach that same understanding from the moment they step foot on campus.

Launching this month, the center will serve as a hub for students and faculty in various fields—from the natural sciences to the arts—who share an interest in health and human development topics. Its goal is twofold: to facilitate creative research and collaboration across disciplines and to expand the meaning of pre-health studies by connecting students with diverse majors to a broad range of career opportunities in health.

That means that students who, for example, want to pair Theatre Arts with the study of vocal health or dance with the study of anatomy will have a new resource for charting their path at the College and beyond. “The Center will support students who want to follow a science-intensive pathway on their educational and professional journey as well as students whose interests are transdisciplinary,” Silton said.

With the new Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts, it is one of several transdisciplinary centers the College is creating to bring MMC departments together in exciting new ways, as envisioned in MMC’s 2022–2024 strategic plan A Bold Path Forward.

“Transdisciplinary and experiential learning have long been the hallmark of a Marymount Manhattan education, and the Center for Health, Human Development, and Creativity expands upon that,” said Peter Naccarato, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty. “It will help more students realize their full potential and provide a model for tapping into a range of disciplines to prepare students to creatively address present and future health-related needs in our society.”

The center kicks off its inaugural year with a monthly speaker series starting September 21. In time, Dr. Silton and her team will also help the College grow its health, human development, and creativity offerings by expanding minors and concentrations that have the potential to become majors and establishing new majors in fields such as health and the arts and health communications.

For now, they will immediately begin the work of helping students select appropriate course offerings, seek pertinent volunteer, employment, and extracurricular experiences, and hone their interview skills to land the health careers of their dreams.

Key to that is the center’s new pre-health advisor Eugene Rubin who’ll begin meeting with students as early as their first year—a difference that sets MMC’s program apart, Dr. Silton said. While many colleges exclude first-year students from pre-health advising, at MMC, “we want to start them off right at the outset so that they can begin making themselves competitive candidates for whatever they choose to pursue after graduation,” she said.

Rubin has a long career in health and education, having served as a high school biology teacher and counselor before obtaining his license as a registered nurse. He’s also taught college-level health classes and, most recently, was a public health advisor for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, guiding New Yorkers who tested positive for COVID-19.

His message for students, he said, is that “no matter what you choose to major in, there’s always a link to health if that’s the direction you want to go in.”

Like Dr. Silton, Rubin also started out as a premed student and wished he’d gotten more guidance about achieving his goals. Instead, he said, he took a circuitous path. “I enjoyed each of the roles I took on, but I would’ve saved myself a lot of anxiety and time if I had known more about the different possibilities,” he said. “And that’s why I have such a strong desire to support the center—I want to show students all the different possibilities.”

Prehealth students: Join the Center for Health, Human Development, and Creativity for an introductory meeting on Wednesday, September 21, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., in Carson Hall, room 606. To learn more, email erubin@mmm.edu.