Alex Montaldo is one of the co-founders of stoPD. He is a film and theater actor based in New York and Los Angeles, a Lee Strasberg Institute graduate, and has a master’s degree in clinical psychology.
Alex is a skilled athlete, a boxer, and a certified stage/film fighter. He is also a staunch supporter of animal rights and animal welfare, has participated in drama therapy programs.
Alex is an advocate for the importance of intense exercise in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and participated as an invited speaker in National Parkinson’s Foundation events in Los Angeles and Northern California, support groups and hospitals in New York and New Jersey. In 2016, Alex has created a theater based program for people with Parkinson’s. In 2019, stoPD started a collaboration with NYU Drama Therapy Department. Thanks to Dr. Nisha Sajnani and her team, the theater program for PD patients has been further developed and improved and it’s currently active.
Roberta Marongiu, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience in Neurological Surgery. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Weill Cornell Brain and Mind Institute. In the laboratory, she has been assisting Dr. Michael G. Kaplitt in developing novel AAV gene therapy approaches for Parkinson’s disease and collaborating with researchers in Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Greengard’s laboratory at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Marongiu earned her Ph.D. in Medical Genetics and Neuroscience from University of Rome “Sapienza” Italy, and the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Marongiu’s research focuses on the genetic causes of Parkinson’s disease and the development of new adeno-associated virus vector (AAV)-mediated brain gene therapies for Parkinson’s disease. She is currently studying drug therapy induced-motor complication and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. She is particularly interested in characterizing how sex-related differences influence the disease onset and progression.
Karen Jashinsky, a native of Livingston, New Jersey, is CEO/Founder of Student Fitness Experts, and handles the business side of the company. She comes from a long line of successful entrepreneurs, so, needless to say, entrepreneurship is in her DNA. Karen holds an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of California, with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, and a BS in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis, with an emphasis in marketing and international business.She has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, and is a frequent speaker on all things entrepreneurial, on marketing, and of course, on fitness. In addition, she’s been honored with a number of awards from her peers in the global fitness industry and was the first recipient of the Emerging Female Business Leader in the fitness industry by IHRSA.
Farrah Zweig, Director of Programming/Co-Founder, gets fired up whenever she talks about anatomy and body movement. As her title implies, she creates the programs for Student Fitness Experts, and is passionate about each and every one of them.
Originally from McLean, Virginia, Farrah attended San Diego State University. She obtained a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in fitness, nutrition and health. Farrah is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Farrah is a PE teacher and has experience running her own fitness and wellness company for families.
Currently, Farrah resides in Beverly Hills with her family.
David Kaplan is the founder of the Kaplan Martial Arts, an eclectic blend of Chinese ( Tai Chi , Shaolin Kung Fu) and Japanese (Kyokushin Karate) Martial Arts. For over twenty years David has been teaching children, adults and older adults at numerous U.S and international locations including Fortune 500 companies, The NYC Yale Club, New York University, The Avenues School, Rancho La Puerta among others.
A student of World Oyama founder Shigeru Oyama and USA Shaolin Temple founder and abbot Shi Yan Ming David has dedicated countless hours of disciplined training on honing his craft.
In addition to teaching David is also an martial arts performer and dragon dancer whose credits include The Discovery Channel The Secrets of the Warriors Power , Justin Steele City Athletes and numerous Chinese New Year Festivals.
Presently David divides his time between his practices in New York City and Rome and is often on the road offering workshops and seminars at resorts and fitness centers worldwide.
Mia Christo is honored to be an instructor with stoPD’s theater program. Mia received her MFA from The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University and her BS in Television and Film Production from St. John’s University. She is currently Adjunct Faculty teaching Acting. Her work spans from feature films, Off-Broadway productions, commercials, industrials, voice-over ads, and award-winning web series. Currently you can hear Mia as the voice of Whole Foods Market. Recent credits include: Jane in Black Sheep (originated role), Denise Savage in Savage in Limbo, and Amy, in the award winning web series Stop The Bleeding! Follow her motto: Create. Give. Live.
More @miachristo and www.miachristo.com
Chelsea Elexis Van is a Doctor of Physical Therapy student and a current Muay Thai instructor at Red Planet Muay Thai. She has competed in Muay Thai with camp Sitthongsai at Art of War MMA gym, and in 2015 was ranked a top 2 amateur female fighter, strawweight division, in the International Kickboxing Federation. Chelsea has experience as a self-defense trainer and board member with Warrior Sisters, and as a life-skills coach for survivors of trauma. Chelsea loves how boxing influences self-efficacy, resilience, and health, and she’s excited to be with stoPD.
stoPD / NYU Theater and Arts Programs
Dr. Nisha Sajnani, RDT-BCT, is the Director of the Program in Drama Therapy and Theatre & Health Lab; and founding Co-Director of the Arts & Health @NYU. Dr. Sajnani is also on faculty with NYU Abu Dhabi where she developed a trans-disciplinary course entitled Can Art Save Lives? which unites current evidence for the health benefits of the arts with practice and policy. She is a faculty advisor in the Rehabilitation Sciences Ph.D., Educational Theatre Ed.D and Ph.D. program, and co-teaches Improvisation and Leadership in the Management Communication Program in NYU Stern. An award winning author, educator, and advocate, her body of work explores the unique ways in which aesthetic experience can inspire care and collective human flourishing across the lifespan.
Dr, Sajnani co-produced the launch of Healing Arts New York and symposium in partnership with the Culturunners, the MET Museum, and the World Health Organization Arts & Health initiative and facilitated the first strategic meeting of charter collaborating centers in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art. In her capacity as Chair of the NYU Creative Arts Therapies Consortium, she leads a WHO commission to map the evidence for the physical, mental, and social health benefits of the arts and arts therapies. Through the Arts + Health @ NYU, she collaborated with WHO Europe, Culture Action Europe, University of Oxford, and University College London on the first WHO policy concerning the role of the arts with forcibly displaced persons. Read an interview with Dr. Nisha Sajnani and her editorial for a co-edited special research topic for Frontiers in Psychology on the physiological and psychological benefits of the arts.
She is the Principal Editor of Drama Therapy Review, and a founding member of the World Alliance of Drama Therapy, and the Critical Pedagogies in the Arts Therapies think tank which she co-founded and co-led from 2018-2021. Dr. Sajnani is affiliated with the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, the Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit (University of Melbourne), KenVak (Dutch Arts Therapies Research Consortium), and the Interdisciplinary Research-Based Theatre collective (University of British Columbia). She was a past research fellow with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (UK), a faculty research fellow with the NYU Aging Incubator, and a senior fellow with the Minnesota Institute for Trauma-Informed Education.
Dr. Sajnani is the co-author of two books, including Intercultural Dramatherapy: Imagination and Action at the Intersections of Difference (Routledge, 2023), and an Introductory Guide to Research Methods for Drama Therapists (under contract). She is the co-editor of Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy: Transforming Clinics, Classrooms, and Communities (second edition forthcoming 2023). She has been published in Frontiers in Psychology, The Arts in Psychotherapy, The Journal of the Applied Arts and Health, Canadian Theatre Review, Europe Now, and Canadian Women’s Studies and has been featured in the Boston Globe and on NPR. She is the series creator of Drama Therapy as Performance, a series of films documenting drama therapy theory and practice. She co-produced the documentary film Fostering Democracy Through Theater and curated Assemblage, an online exhibit on the arts and displacement as well as Visions and Voices for a Healthy Planet, the first WHO panel on the role of the arts in addressing climate change for the 2022 World Health Day Campaign.