"Heart of the Harvey" Explores The Intersection of Art and Medicine

APRIL 3, 2016 -- Bill Rebeck, PhD, MFA, is a neuroscientist -- but he’s also a playwright. And he doesn’t think of himself as unique in that respect.

“A lot of scientists have artistic bents,” he said. “Art and medicine draw on similar skills, like using your imagination. But they also draw on different parts of the brain, which can be satisfying.”

In June 2015, Rebeck earned a Master's in Fine Arts (MFA) from Lesley University in Massachusetts. Shortly after, he collaborated with Susan Lynskey, MFA, professor of performing arts at Georgetown, to plan “Heart of the Harvey,” an evening of theater held March 31 at the School of Medicine’s newly renovated W. Proctor Harvey Clinical Amphitheater. For one night, the operating theater was transformed into a performance theater.  

“We asked students, faculty and staff across campuses to write and submit 10-minute plays,” said Rebeck. “We really wanted a good cross-section of people involved. We chose plays from the medical center, main campus and the School of Continuing Studies.”

Caroline Wellbery, MD, professor of family medicine, wrote and acted in one of the plays. “Look what the arts can do -- foster camaraderie, connection and common purpose among students, staff and faculty, and bridge the gap between the medical school and the main campus. The arts can help cross deep divides,” she said.

All of the plays had a medical bent, yet they were very diverse in topic and tone, ranging from funny to sobering. The plays also addressed current issues, including commentary on affordable health care. The performances featured dance numbers, some singing and a monologue.

“Our university has had an interest for some time in bringing the main campus and the medical school together more closely,” said Lynskey. “This seemed to me an extraordinary way to do it.”

Rebeck and Lynskey hope to make Heart of the Harvey an annual event, and judging from audience enthusiasm, the amphitheater has many plays in its future.

Leigh Ann Renzulli
GUMC Communications