Stethoscope Stage breaks the fourth wall between patients and providers


After the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, Ayvaunn Penn noticed the swirling stream of misinformation online.

The theater teacher Texas Christian University was interested in the gap between where health professionals and the general public got their information. Over the summer, she had the idea of ​​trying to bring these perspectives together in the theater.

“It occurred to me, why not use my profession, what I know and love, what people like to gather – and that’s stories – to help share accurate information,” said Penn. “And also use the theater to make everyone’s voice heard. Because at the end of the day, when people use social media, when they talk to their friends, their families, they want to be heard.
The result is the first Platinum stethoscope gaming festival taking place at 7:30 p.m. on April 9 at PepsiCo Hall on the TCU campus.

The first hour of the event will feature a variety of monologues and short plays written about the pandemic by a mix of community members, healthcare workers and students. A one-hour roundtable with health professionals, including Dr. Drew Weissmanwhose to research contributed to the development of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, will follow.

Lauren Mitchell is Assistant Professor of Medical Education and Director of Narrative Medicine at the TCU School of Medicine. Narrative medicine emphasizes the importance of listening to and understanding patient stories to provide better care, and students in the program are regularly asked to write reflections throughout their training.

“Our students, for better or worse, have spent the majority of their time in medical school navigating COVID in one way or another. A lot of what they’ve already thought about and written about has been the effects of the COVID pandemic,” Mitchell said.

Giving their students the opportunity to share these thoughts seemed natural.

Sarah Cheema, third-year medical student at TCU School of Medicinesaid she benefited from the habit of writing about her journey. Working in a variety of clinical settings, Cheema regularly discussed COVID-19 vaccines.

“I would notice that the whole behavior of the patients changed the second I asked about the vaccine,” Cheema said.

Some of those difficult conversations weighed on her as she tried to be empathetic, but also to ensure she was giving evidence-based medical advice.

“My whole piece is kind of about this inner struggle of like, I know how I feel. But, at the same time, I can understand why some patients feel what they feel and why they are so closed to it. And kind of an inner battle where I’m like bored or wanting to convince them and then me too, but I get it,” Cheema continued. “We all want the same thing: to be healthy and free.
His play, titled “Not Another One”, will be read as part of the production.

Chase Crossno is assistant art director and assistant professor of medical education at the TCU School of Medicine, and was struck by what Cheema had written.

“It immediately brought me to tears. I was so moved by the effort to take viewpoints, which was present throughout this piece,” said Crossno, who also has a master’s degree in public health. “That’s something that I think is the cornerstone of becoming a truly effective health care provider, is stepping into a space where you’re not caught up in your own experience, but you find the humility to have multiple perspectives at once in an effort to truly care for others.

the pieces featured in the event were selected to represent a variety of viewpoints, including people who might have been hesitant about vaccines or quibbled with the idea of ​​wearing masks.

Mitchell admitted that reading some of the submissions made her bristle with some, but she appreciated Penn’s response to her concerns.

“This person may have views that bother you. But if that person’s piece is in the fest, the likelihood of them going and then staying for the panel, which features Drew Weissman among other doctors, where they talk about the vaccine and its safety, is worth considering. be kept in mind as we are determining the selection process,” Mitchell said. “And of course it was a nuanced process. It wasn’t necessarily like, ‘Oh, this person is openly anti-vax, let’s bring them in, so they learn something.’

Penn hopes the theater set can foster nuanced dialogue in a way that other sets cannot.
“You invite your viewer to step into the shoes of these characters on stage and not just put themselves in shoes that fit them or that they like, but suddenly at least be open to thoughts that are different from theirs,” he said. said Penn. Beyond the frame, Mitchell said the monologue format is also a powerful tool for humanizing others.

“It forces you to shut up and listen, doesn’t it? It’s not a dialogue where you have to swallow your reaction or you have to try to be a good listener. Like, literally, the tenets of theater say that as an audience member, your job is to bear witness and bite your tongue — whatever you have inside,” Mitchell said. “So I think that in itself is a really important and useful practice for everyone, just to take this opportunity to hear what’s really being said.” They hope the event will foster meaningful dialogue and can serve as an antidote to confirmation bias. As for the event’s future, Penn said she’s already received several suggestions for topics to cover next year.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter. At Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Learn more about our Editorial Independence Policy here.


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