Eat. Sleep. Pharmacy. Dance. Repeat.

Meena Murugappan teaches and dances classical Bharathanatyam, enriching her student pharmacist studies.


It was 6:30 pm as the cool evening breeze hit the pharmacy crowd at the APhA2013 Closing Reception in Los Angeles. I stared blankly at the empty square in front of the live band and amused myself with the thought of starting my own mini dance party. I watched as people trickled into the area that was walled off for our event and thought to myself, “Why not? I’m sure there are a few more dance lovers who would join me.” I tugged at my classmate’s arm and persuaded her to start dancing with me.

The band was excited to see us dance to their music. They quickly switched to a more peppy number and before we knew it, more members from our chapter joined us on our self-created dance floor. Within minutes, the group of dancers grew exponentially as pharmacists and student pharmacists from all over the country jived along to the uplifting beats.

By the end of the night, I had met at least 100 more people, danced with all of them, and most importantly, had fun! My feet were exhausted but my mind and mood were soaring high. I was satisfied. This to me is dance.

My shadow

My love of dance began at the tender age of 6 years. The form of South Indian classical dance that I am trained in is called Bharathanatyam. What started off for me as a journey I was forced into by my parents became a hobby, then a passion, and now a way of life. I can no longer imagine a life without dance. I graduated in Bharathanatyam at the age of 15 and have since grown and continued to evolve in the art form. I have also pursued other forms of dance from salsa to contemporary hip-hop. 

Dance has traveled with me wherever I go. It is my shadow and allows me to relax from the rigors of pharmacy school. It is perhaps one of the most intense forms of exercising and it is extremely therapeutic. It frees my mind of worries and exam-related stress. It is ethereal in the sense that it transports me to another world. In this world, there is nothing but me and my dance; the feeling is ecstatic. Not only does dance prove to be a major stress-relieving factor in my life, but also a way for me to stay fit. When we preach to our patients time and again the importance of exercising, it is only fair that we follow our own advice. Dance has helped me avoid the “Pharmacy 15”!

Platform for creativity

Meena Murugappan teaches Indian classical dance to elementary school students at MacArthur West School in Duluth, MN.

Dance has served as a platform for my creativity and leadership skills. During my first year of pharmacy school, I was able to bring together a group of student pharmacists and faculty members from diverse cultural backgrounds and teach them a personally-choreographed Bollywood dance number. Our dance team then proceeded to perform at the college of pharmacy’s annual talent show and we won first place for our dance number.

Performing from a very young age has made me love being on stage. The stage does not intimidate me and neither does an audience or public speaking. This has helped me in my leadership roles. The most striking way in which dance has had a positive effect on my life is that it has shown me the meaning of compassion.

Bharathanatyam is an animated story-telling dance form in which the danseuse plays the different roles of the characters in the story she is depicting through her dance. Sometimes she has to dance the role of a queen and sometimes she has to dance the role of a hungry and sick child. While dancing in these roles, she places herself in the shoes of each of these characters and expresses the emotions they would feel. She thus grows in her capacity to empathize with others and her innate sense of compassion develops.

Having danced Bharathanatyam for almost 15 years now, I am able to effortlessly empathize with others, especially my patients. Although I may never truly be able to experience what they are going through, I am able to show compassion and I realize that they each have a story behind them—a battle that they are fighting.

An ice breaker

Dance has given me considerable insight into life, which I would perhaps be lacking had I not been a dancer. It has also helped me network and connect with people across the globe. Dancing at APhA2013 enabled me to meet several pharmacists and student pharmacists from around the country. I became known as the “girl who started the dance floor.” Dancing makes networking easy! It serves as an ice breaker and something to bond over. Dance has proven to me that passion and perseverance culminate in success.

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