PA program uses Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit to teach students about patient-centered care

On October 16, the Wake Forest School of Medicine enjoyed a special performance of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit at the HanesBrands Theatre in downtown Winston-Salem. Greensboro-based Triad Stage produced Wit as part of its 15th anniversary season, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center sponsored the production, and the Wit Education Night interprofessional event was organized as part of the sponsorship. PA students, medical students, and nurse anesthesia students attended the performance, as did PA program and medical school faculty and Dean Edward Abraham. The PA program was particularly well represented as all first-year students, including those traveling down from Boone, were present.

The PA program has used the film version of Wit as part of the curriculum for the Being a PA course for several years now, so it was a quite a treat for students to experience the narrative live. Triad Stage mounted an impressive production and more than did justice to the award-winning play. The story of lead character Dr. Vivian Bearing’s experience of late-stage ovarian cancer was conveyed with powerful physical performances from the actors and technical precision by the stage managers. Their attention to detail fully engaged the audience and made us feel as though the theater was in fact an inpatient setting. Watching the play was a compelling, intense, emotionally draining experience.

After the performance concluded, attendees and some of the actors engaged in discussion about the play, exploring what lessons it could teach us about the state of medicine and our role as clinicians. The actors also shared with the audience what it was like for them to play their characters and how the experience affected their own views of health care. PA program and medical school faculty, including bioethicists, were on hand to help facilitate the discussion (see photo below). Current issues of our medical system were explored, as were perspectives on the emotional toll of having cancer and caring for patients with cancer. Through the wonderful performance and the discussion afterward, our interdisciplinary community came together. Though we didn’t resolve the questions we raised, we all left the event wiser and more cultured. [written by J.T. LaBruyere, PA2017]

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