Hi, my name is Lenique Huggins. I’m a Communications Fellow with Arts for the Aging. My main project over this next year is managing and expanding Arts for the Aging’s social media reach. I developed a vision for this work having spent the previous year here as a programming and communications intern. I’ve had my hand in a wide range of projects like helping develop a research and arts demonstration video series for pain management in collaboration with the the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville and Lesley University in Cambridge, MA; supporting Arts for the Aging’s efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging; producing social media and website content; and providing technical support for programs. I grew up in a Caribbean household close to art and culture from all over the world. I’ve always been surrounded by music, dance, storytelling, and visual art, and my family hosted international students throughout my childhood. I started playing the piano at age 3, and have been singing, dancing, and doodling for as long as I can remember. My mom jokes that when I was younger, she always knew when I was upset, because she would hear me practicing piano voluntarily. Despite my early exposure to art, it wasn’t until my undergraduate experience at Duke University and through community service during that time that I began to understand the therapeutic value of art. I led art programs at a family shelter and taught K-10 art in a rural community. I saw how encouraging self-expression could bring peace during uncertain times, reduce stress, and empower communities. When I went through a rough time in my sophomore year, I found myself using painting for a lot of healing. After attending a conference where I saw how art was being used to improve outcomes of people with cognitive decline like dementia and Alzheimer’s, I was inspired to look for similar work in my gap year before attending medical school. I found the organization searching the web for organizations at the intersection of arts and health, I loved what I saw when I found artsfortheaging.org, and I’m so glad I reached out with my resume and forged this path with them! I love that Arts for the Aging is multidisciplinary because I’m active in a range of art disciplines – music, dance, singing, and drawing are what I practice most. I also love that Arts for the Aging places value on improvisation’s core tenet of “yes, and”. It encourages me to be open to new things and big ideas. It reminds me that it’s great to be different and not fit into one mold. Interacting with older adult and caregiver participants in Arts for the Aging programs has reinforced the understanding that everyone has navigated life up differently up until the point that they met you, and this influences how people respond to one another. Sometimes we see participants on their good days, sometimes they’re having a bad day. Now I’m at Yale for medical school even as I engage in this fellowship with Arts for the Aging. In medicine too, I’ll interact with people on their good days, bad days, and worst days – it takes empathy, understanding, and meeting people where they are to provide good care. There are people who have been going to the doctor regularly all their life, there are people who haven’t had access or distrust the healthcare system and only come in for emergencies. No one is the same and it’s important for me to be attentive to that in all of my interactions. I plan to take the arts into my future medical career, to continue to be active at the intersection of arts and health. I want to push for arts programs intertwined with health interventions in communities that lack access to these resources. And I will continue practicing art. It’s a self-care practice that helps me combat burnout and show up better for patients who need me.

Yale School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony | August 8th, 2022. Pictured: Lenique Huggins (right) and Dean Nancy J. Brown, MD, Dean of Yale School of Medicine (left). Photography by Robert Lisak.