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The Secret Lives of Doctors — Dr. Alexandre West, the dancer

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A Broadway performer. An accomplished pianist. A dedicated marathoner. A third-degree black belt. An award-winning filmmaker. A water-skier with all the right moves. A high-flying fighter pilot physician. Doctors from across the state open up about their off-script origin stories and lives outside the office.  

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Alexandre West MD is an obstetrician and gynecologist at UConn Health.

The Dancer

Dr. Alexandre West

Assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UConn Health

Artists aren’t always the most sensible people. But it’s not easy to keep an eye on the everyday when you’re chasing your creative dreams. Dr. Alexandre West was bitten by the dance bug before she was barely in kindergarten and studied ballet throughout her childhood and teen years. But when it came time for college, she wasn’t about to spend all her time in the studio.

“I knew a dance career doesn’t last forever, so the plan was always to dance and then go to medical school,” says West, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UConn Health. In high school she trained with the Oregon Ballet Theater and then enrolled in the dance program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. “When I was looking at undergrad dance programs, I only looked at those where I could also do my pre-med,” West says. “NYU let me do that.”

After earning her BFA, West spent several years teaching and dancing freelance in New York before beginning her studies at New York Medical College. While the art of dance might seem a long way from the science of medicine, West knows a number of dancers who have become MDs. “Professional ballet training is very rigorous and I think the same things that attract one to that type of pursuit attract you to medicine,” she says.

Having sustained several injuries over the years, West’s ballet moves are limited to stretching at the barre these days. “I’m the type of person,” West laughs, “if I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it.” But yoga — which West teaches and practices — provides a grounding in her life and informs how she approaches her patients. “I work, I have kids, I understand the importance of maintaining that intersection of physical and emotional health. Yoga helps me to better connect my patients’ mental and emotional experience to their physical experience, which allows me to help the whole person.” 

NEXT: Dr. Andrew Grose, the showman

This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.