Classmates Dr. Charles Samenow and Ms. Erika Willacy have collaborated in creating CDC’s The New Theater of Medicine which uses interactive theater to help train healthcare professionals. The idea came from Samenow’s experience while at the University of Michigan School of Public Health as a graduate teaching assistant attending an orientation session. The orientation and training session was run by a troupe of actors from the Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT). Dr. Samenow was struck by how much more engaging and effective this form of training was in comparison to more traditional forms of training. Inspired, Dr. Samenow connected with Mr. Jeffrey Steiger, former director of Michigan’s CRLT Players and Ms. Erika Willacy, his former classmate. Ms. Willacy is a lead health education specialist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their focus is training physicians in conducting health screenings for immigrants and refugees seeking entrance into the United States. Since creating this new program, Ms. Willacy, Mr. Steiger and Dr. Samenow have conducted their theater based workshops in South Africa and Hong Kong, with international groups of physicians attending. Ms. Willacy and Mr. Steiger agree that the highly emotional and sometimes delicate conversation between doctors and patients is ideal for discussion and processing through the lens of theater. Dr. Samenow has received praise from participants saying “This was great. It was a far better way of addressing these issues. I actually learned something. This is something I can take back and use in my practice.”
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