Can Actors Help Teach Doctors How to Be More Empathetic?

While doctors spend years in school learning how to properly treat patients, it’s medical actors, or “standardized patients,” who help teach them how to be

When Corinne May Botz learned about these actors, she became fascinated by the notion of “playing sick,” especially the ways in which it relates to the theater of medicine and early medical and psychiatric photography.

“I was sick a lot as a child and grew to hate doctors as a result,” she wrote via email. “So the concept of being paid to act sick and the fact that standardized patients give feedback to medical students struck me as empowering and pointed to agency and subjectivity of the patient.,…”

Botz considered questions that would frame the project, specifically whether students could learn empathy through the practice of medicine and whether art could teach viewers about empathy. Flaherty also plays both herself and an SP in an accompanying film Botz created for the project. 

By David Rosenberg