Former Resident, Dancer Turned PA Starring In Video Memorial
Former Newtown resident and accomplished dancer turned physician assistant Mia Malin has led an interesting life, most recently finding a creative outlet in her art that helps relieve the stress and angst she experiences helping care for critical COVID-19 patients in a Chattanooga, Tenn., intensive care unit.
Malin recently called in to The Newtown Bee to talk about one of her latest accomplishments, which tapped both her performing skills and medical experiences — a public service video commissioned by her new home city just before last Christmas that pays tribute to caregivers and the 280 Chattanooga residents who were lost to the global pandemic at the time of the production.
See the video by visiting youtube.com/watch?v=y8qzwe-bknm&feature=emb_logo.
From the time she and her family moved to Newtown when she was in first grade, Malin said, she dedicated her life to dancing.
“I grew up taking lessons in all forms of dance — classical and contemporary ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and African dance,” she said.
After participating with the Newtown High School Markettes dance team and with a regional dance studio, she suffered a herniated disc that detoured her into a pre-med track at Fordham University. By her sophomore year, she had recovered from her injury and began dancing again, applying herself to both pursuits.
“I worked with two different dance companies in New York and took classes at the same time before I decided to go to PA school,” she said.
After getting her master’s degree in health sciences from Quinnipiac University and completing her PA program in 2016, Malin focused on a critical care specialty, completing a residency at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, coincidentally the same place her parents, a surgeon and nurse, met years before.
Armed with her critical care training, Malin ended up taking a job in Tennessee, where she now staffs at a COVID ICU at Erlanger Hospital.
The Pop-Up Project
Shortly after her arrival in Chattanooga, Malin joined a dance company there called the Pop-Up Project. Last fall, the Pop-Up Project was commissioned by the city to create a memorial video introduced by former Mayor Andy Berke.
“At the time, we had lost 280 residents to COVID,” she said. “So they knew I was both a PA and a dancer, so they asked me to be a part of it.”
Among the video scenes, Malin is pictured shedding her medical personal protective equipment, walking to and getting into her car, lighting a memorial candle for one of the virus victims, and a final clip where she had to muster tears. One cannot help being emotionally captivated by the four-and-a-half minute clip, because the imagery and message is now so universal.
Malin said the entire project was filmed, completed, and released in the space of a few weeks. To date, it is the biggest and most widely viewed creative project she has been a part of — although it has already generated another role in a nationally televised SunButter commercial.
And this time, she gets to use her acting and dancing skills, as well as hand modeling.
“We just finished filming last week,” she said. “The hand modeling involves me holding a spoon of the SunButter, which is like peanut butter, except it’s made with sunflower seeds. That image is also supposed to be used in print ads. I’ll also be pictured dancing holding a jar of SunButter, and I’ll be seen doing a Zoom call.”
One of the best parts of doing the commercial shoot was getting to work with fellow Pop-Up Project dancers who were also featured. And while her latest pursuits tap a mix of Malin’s talents, she said she is still “dragging my butt into ballet class to stay in shape!”
Front Line Calling
And she needs that energy, especially on the job at Erlanger.
“In terms of intensity, I’m working with the sickest patients,” she said. “Before COVID, if we had one or two patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), they would be our sickest patients. But now we have an entire ICU, plus, plus filled with ARDS patients. It’s way more than we’re used to seeing, and it’s all one thing, which is abnormal. No GI bleeds, no heart failure. Right now it’s all COVID; everyone is really sick, and we’re covering more beds than we’re used to.”
For a period, Malin also considered coming back to work at a Connecticut hospital, flying back to Tennessee to take shifts in-between, but then thought better of it.
“It would have meant a seven-day-a-week situation, and I decided I really needed to sleep when I could,” she said.
In the coming months, Malin and her physician boyfriend — who she met on the job, similar to her parents — are planning a move to Vancouver, Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon.
“I’ll be out there by April, and I’ve already lined up a job outside Portland in a medical ICU at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. I’m going to be part of a new two-person advance practitioner provider team because they don’t have one right now,” she said.
“In the meantime,” Malin confided, “I’ve been looking at dance studios out there and I’m putting together a dance reel and my dance resume so I can start auditioning when I get out there.”