Arts & Sciences Double Bill
Last weekend was extraordinarily artsy for the medical fraternity. The Division of Medicine in KKH held their year-end party where the highlight was a dance-off among various departments. Meanwhile students from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine put up a series of plays for a competition known as Playhouse. I was thrilled to attend both acts of this medical playbill.
Dance Dance Revolution
Old Is Gold
Usually our department is strongly represented in the dance competition by talented nurses and enthusiastic residents. However this year, due to a glitch in the matrix I ended up being on the list as one of the (oldest) dancers. My senior moments were established when the sound of my back & knees crunching reverberated in time to Shakira’s Waka Waka at every dance practice.
In addition, I was tasked to shop for costumes because old aunties always get the best deals. Well, I’m proud to announce I didn’t let the team down. In fact, I went under the budget of $20 per person, with a colorful assortment of accessories. Finally, I was able to dress every single dancer in sequined outfits from my own wardrobe. What can I say, shiny is my favorite color. I’m definitely a child of the 70’s.
When we arrived in the staff lounge we ran into many young doctors who had previously trained in our department. What followed was a flurry of hugs, catching up and photo-taking. During the performances, we cheered our colleagues on, particularly when they sang. We laughed when a reference to Crazy Rich Asians had a specialist snarling at his resident, “You will never be enough!” Eventually everyone won a prize in the friendly competition, and while ours was silver, the memories were golden.
Who What Wear
A couple of days later, M4 & M5 accompanied me to watch Playhouse, organized by the NUS Medical Society. At the welcome reception, I ran into Professor Shirley Ooi, who had taken me for specialist exams when I was pregnant with M4. We also ran into Professor Tay Sook Muay, who was there as judge. M5 was very impressed by her sequined dress and paid her high compliments for it. As you can see, the love for shiny sequins is clearly genetic.
Presently, the performances began and they were absolutely riveting yet varied. The first year medical students’ play was about 2 musicians, one gifted, one industrious. Their paths converge eventually when they find the perfect melody and thus happiness, although there is compromise on both parts.
My children loved the second play, a comedy of errors starring The Big Bad Wolf. This second year student won Playhouse Best Actress, much to the children’s delight.
I was especially proud of the third year students, some of whom are my students. This year I have watched several plays on dementia; this Playhouse offering is on par with the professionals’. The timeline jumped back & forth, presumably referencing the confusion that exists in such patients’ mind. Many in the audience cried along with the hero who feared losing her identity and hoped those dearest would Forget Me Not.
The award for Playhouse Best Play went to the fourth year students. Set in a world where humans outstrip the food supply, the elderly are euthanized unless their children are willing to share rations. I found myself hoping to see this same play with the same bi-level set on Broadway or made into a Netflix drama.
The Art Of Healing
Finally the fifth year students, despite final exams looming in 71 days, staged a play about a real clinical conundrum. Eager to be a good doctor, a fresh grad struggles to meet the demands of the busy hospital. A potent mix of tragedy & comedy, it strikes a chord for healthcare professionals who join the trade for the healing human touch, and yet find ourselves mired in protocols and templates. Ironically, there is no time to care, for our patients and ourselves. In fact, the play encapsulated the spirit of Playhouse & our weekend.
Despite the busy clinics & shifts, my colleagues from the Division of Medicine exerted tremendous effort to put up an entertaining performance. There is neither KPI nor ROI that compels us. It is more about forging a spirit of camaraderie. And maybe exercising a different part of us that isn’t completely scientific, logical or rational. Whether that part exists in our brain, heart or soul, nurturing it is part of the wellness that completes us, I think.
So, if you’re a disciplined doctor, obsessed with P&P’s, take a moment to watch a play, or do a silly dance. Oddly enough, we might be better at being physicians, if we can simply be better at being human.