Real People: Grady psychologist incorporates love of dance with healing

As the chief psychologist at Grady Hospital, Nadine Kaslow deals with emotionally-charged situations on an almost daily basis.

“When there’s a crisis, when something happens, I’m often the person called in to help people cope or heal,” said Kaslow, 55. “I’ve developed a reputation; people trust me and depend on me to help out when other services are struggling.”

Kaslow often finds herself working not just with patients, but with staff members as well.

Among the most difficult situations Kaslow has helped others handle were a colleague’s suicide and the traumatic delivery of a baby.

“When those things happened, everyone was upset and scared, wondering what they could have done differently,” she said. “I went and helped them cope. I think part of the reason I can be very nurturing and supportive is because trauma and crisis don’t scare me; they engage me. When other people might run from it, I run to it.”

To keep her own equilibrium, Kaslow turns to ballet, a passion she’s had since she was a 3-year-old growing up in Philadelphia.

“Ballet is an important part of my identity,” said Kaslow, who danced professionally with the Pennsylvania Ballet. “But when I had to make a decision which career to choose, I made the psychology decision.”

As opposite as the two talents seem, Kaslow found a way to merge dance and psychology. After taking classes with the Atlanta Ballet, she floated the idea of becoming a psychologist to the company, a position she’s been filling now for about five years.

“I work at Grady because I’m passionately committed to working with under-served and underprivileged populations,” she said. “Dancers are under a different kind of stress, so I may do a wellness program for them or work with them individually as they struggle to cope effectively.”

Along with her work at the ballet, Kaslow devotes considerable time to teaching and training interns, residents and post-doctoral students at Grady and Emory, where she is a professor in the behavioral sciences. She also runs Grady’s program for abused and suicidal African-American women. Her dedication recently earned her the Inspiring Mentor Award from the Grady Health Foundation. Kaslow, along with two Grady physicians, will be feted at the Foundation’s White Coat Gala March 16.

“What drew us to her was the work she does with women and children,” said Lisa Borders, president of Grady Health Foundation. “At the same time, she is adding to the pool of knowledge and teaching residents. There are multiple dimensions to the work she does.”

Kaslow said being recognized by her own institution is a major accomplishment.

“I don’t think there’s a higher honor,” she said. “But I don’t do it to get honors. One of the things that matters to me most is mentoring the next generation of psychologists, physicians, nurses and health care professionals.”

Every other Wednesday, H.M. Cauley brings you positive stories from our community. To suggest a story idea, e-mail