Alana Jackson, M.S., is a lecturer with the Center for Arts in Medicine. A songwriter, performer, and spoken word artist, she has performed original work in cities spanning from NYC, to Belfast, Ireland. Her early experiences as a caregiver compelled her to pursue a career in medicine, but it wasn’t long into her college career before she determined that she couldn’t turn her back on the healing she had also found through music. She graduated with distinction from Duke University with a self-designed degree in the “Intersections of Public Health and the Performing Arts,” culminating her practicum with an original 20-person production focused on meditations around arts, illness, grief, and coping that continue to shape her outlook today.
As a multi-modal artist dedicated to working at the interface of arts and health, Alana has robust experience facilitating arts engagement for patients and communities of varying ages, circumstance, and abilities, and has performed bedside in hospital units as a Shands AIM artist in residence. Alana has additionally enjoyed working with adolescents at Alachua Academy, a residential partner with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for girls at risk for substance use and abuse. As the founder and former director of a dance class series for Parkinson’s Disease patients and their caregivers piloted at Duke based off Dance for PD, she laid the groundwork for sustainability of the program in existence today.
This passion for promoting access to the arts informs many of the large-scale public health initiatives she has overseen and contributed to in Gainesville. Over the past several years, she has had prominent roles in programs such as Night of Dance, and in content development for Theatre for Health Outreach at Alachua County Public Schools, HIV Awareness and Education, and theatre presented in Our Community Our Health, a nationally broadcasted webinar and town hall series hosted locally by UF HealthStreet.
Much of her work in these arenas has focused on how theatre, dance, writing, and music can be used to advance public health priorities and improve health outcomes. During her time at UF she has additionally held roles in clinical research and strategic initiatives. These roles have drawn on her background in the medical sciences and extensive experience developing organizational vision for community engagement. She continues to leverage her performance background in hopes of empowering communities that have lost their independence, identity, or physical abilities.
Current research/involvements includes a co-leading a community-engaged creative placemaking initiative: this initiative is focused on realizing more equitable realities locally and beyond through cross-sector collaboration around arts and culture, entrepreneurship, and public health and wellness; collaboration with SOTD faculty for work around Disaster & the Body, locating the role of the arts in response, resilience, and recovery in the face of disaster; arts integration into STEM learning as a contributor to projects like the Virtual Creative Arts Academy, a program infusing arts and cultural activities with STEM through online engagement; and the ways arts engagement in K-12 environments helps to impact learner identities, academic achievement, health outcomes, and overall life trajectory. Her focus in K-12 environments is on the incorporation of culturally responsive methodologies and the arts to promote equity in education. She is currently developing a program model for interdisciplinary and collaborative exchange focused on arts, health, and literacy with support from a UF Creative Campus Catalyst grant. As a Service-Learning lecturer with the Center, she plays a key role in leading and advising interdisciplinary experiential-learning and community-engagement initiatives. In her time at UF, she has spearheaded partnerships across UF departments and launched community-engagement plans; initiated Community Advisory participation and programs; and trained student researchers in the practice of partnership, recruitment, and engagement procedures.