June 21, 2006
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
UMDNJ Physician Brings Improv Theater to Clinical Education
STRATFORD — Third- and fourth-year medical students studying clinical practices in obstetrics and gynecology this year at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine will learn more than how to take Pap smears and deliver babies. They’ll also learn “Zip, Zap, Zup,” “Dr. Know-it-all” and other improvisational theater techniques from their instructor, Dr. Joey Rottman.
“In improv, it’s not about you; it’s about supporting your partner on stage,” said Dr. Rottman, the clinical director of students in the medical school’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “In medicine, your partner is your patient. Improv shows students how to listen better, be supportive, and get rid of their egos. Once students learn to take the emphasis off themselves as ‘the doctor’ they do great with patients.”
Dr. Rottman is well versed in improvisational theater, having trained three years ago under renowned Chicago improv instructor Jimmy Carrane. While in Chicago, Dr. Rottman formed Rice Pudding, an improv troupe that performed at Chicago-area clubs including the Improv-Olympic, which boasts such alumni as Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Vince Vaughn and Andy Dick.
Dr. Rottman’s unconventional approach doesn’t attempt to turn medical students into performance artists. Instead, he targets important physician skills. In “Zip, Zap, Zup,” students stand in a circle and repeat nonsense syllables exactly, which forces them to “hear” emotions and pick up on other non-verbal cues. “Dr. Know-it-all” requires a team of three students to answer a medical question together, with each student providing just one word of the answer at a time.
“Our brains tend to suppress our best ideas so I use improv to get students to think spontaneously,” he said. “We have one exercise where a student must answer questions from two other students at the same time. It helps them to think on their feet and also simulates what they’ll experience in the operating room or in an exam room where they may need to respond simultaneously to questions from a patient and her family members.”
To arrange an interview with Dr. Rottman, contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or at (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.