Connecting Drama and Medicine
PEARL XIN Priya Gupta, a human biology and pre-med junior, designed a workshop to teach students proper physician bedside manners through drama as part of her Bridging Disciplines certificate in Social Inequality, Health & Policy. Drawing on other examples of teaching complex ideas through drama, Gupta attempted to rectify the trend of the dwindling human aspect in medicine by putting students in role-playing situations that mimic patient-physician interactions.
Though Gupta had no prior acting experience, she describes her experience with theatre as a positive one: “It forces you to bring out the emotions of your role, and can be a creative outlet when you have a lot of other classes.”
Prof. Katie Dawson, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance and Director of the Drama for Schools program, first introduced Gupta to the idea of connecting drama and medicine and acted as Gupta’s faculty mentor for this initiative.
The workshop began with a clip from the movie 50/50, in which Joseph Gordon Levitt stars as a 27-year-old who receives the news of his newly-diagnosed cancer at the doctor’s office. The audience can see the shock and disbelief ripple through Levitt during the exchange while the doctor largely ignores Levitt’s fragile mental state and continues to spew medical jargon at the bewildered patient. The detached manner of the physician as he discussed the diagnosis serves as the counterexample to proper bedside manners for the exercise.
Following the clip, Gupta tasked groups of students with disclosing a complicated medical diagnosis to a patient in the simplest way possible to help the patient understand his situation. Participants had 15 minutes to play out a physician-patient interaction, in which they planned and executed their communication methods. Students used visuals and everyday language to mimic doctors’ roles in helping the “patient” deal with the emotional aspect of hearing the diagnosis. The focus of the exercise rested on the human facet of medical care as much as the scientific one.
“I was glad to see that people who attended grasped the concept,” Gupta reflected after the event. “Roleplay and situation styles of teaching helps people understand the essence of what they are learning.”
Students provided positive feedback via pre-session and post-session surveys for the hour-and-a-half workshop. In the future, Gupta hopes to expand her efforts and propose the integration of drama as an education tool in medical schools. She plans to present her ideas for consideration in the new Dell Medical School curriculum.