Research by Amy Zelenski, PhD focuses on teaching physicians how to engage in empathic behaviors with their patients, learners, and interprofessional colleagues, and how increased skill in empathic behavior can increase the quality of patient care and decrease healthcare provider burnout and personal distress.
Improvisational Theater for Scientists (Improv4Scientists)
Improvisers are experts in storytelling, spontaneity, and using observation skills to adjust to their audiences and team members accordingly. Among other skills, this 6-week course will teach participants how to:
- effectively communicate your work to different audiences
- adjust your behavior in real time to respond to audience feedback
- manipulate your vocal and physical presence to communicate more effectively.
- Students: Find course information in the Student My Course Guide under Medicine 710. Next session: Spring, 2019 (exact dates TBD). Download course flier from 2018 (PDF)
- Community Members: Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to enroll. The cost is $225.
Improvisational Theater for Health Professionals (Improv4Health Professionals)
Based on the Watson/Northwestern Medical Improv Curriculum and work from the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook Medical School; this six-week class will teach students how to:
- Effectively communicate with patients, peers, team members, and supervisors.
- Listen closely
- Imagine the perspective of others
- Respond authentically to the emotions of others
- Unlock creativity and spontaneity even in moments of stress
- Identify tools and techniques that promote effective team communication and respect.
- Recognize barriers to effective communication among team members.
- Describe both the negative and positive attributes of both the team as a whole and the individuals involved.
- Formulate a plan for improvements of the team in future collaborative scenarios
- Assess the attributes needed in a productive team
- Next session: Fall, 2018. Download course flier (PDF)
Custom-Designed Sessions Available Upon Request
Dr. Zelenski has conducted tailored sessions for groups in Madison, Wisconsin and beyond, and is happy to work with groups and individuals to design a session based on your organization's goals. Partnering organizations have included:
- St. Catherine’s University
- Public Health Madison and Dane County
- Graduate Women in Science – University of Wisconsin, Madison Chapter
- Midwest Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry
- Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference
Clare Haden, MFA—Haden (pictured at right, next to Dr. Zelenski) earned her MFA in Acting from UW-Madison and currently serves as the Oral Communication Specialist at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. She has worked as a professional actor, voice and speech coach, and teaching artist.
National Endowment for the Arts
Title: The Impact of Improvisational Theatre on Empathy
The goal of this work is to investigate the effects of an interprofessional improvisational theater course on the empathic abilities of health professions students.
- Podcast episode: "Can You Hear Me Now?" featuring Alan Alda. The Emmy-winning actor and star of television's M*A*S*H* teaches doctors and scientists to communicate more effectively and wrote the book “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”
- “Yes, and...," On Wisconsin Magazine, Summer 2017
- "Health care professionals use improv to better connect with patients," NBC-15, June 8, 2017
- "Dr. Amy Zelenski Selected as Member of UW-Madison Teaching Academy," Department of Medicine, March 16, 2017
- "Teaching Empathy: PalliTALK 2016," Department of Medicine, November 2, 2016
- "Philanthropists Learn How Theater Improv Is Used for Medical Education," Department of Medicine, April 11, 2016
To reach Dr. Zelenski, email email@example.com or call 608-263-7358.