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School of Medicine plans virtual show, raises over $14,000 for local clinic serving Latinx mental health

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Over 100 medical students, residents and attending physicians have come together to put on a virtual show to support a Durham community organization. 

The School of Medicine Faculty Show is an annual tradition in the Duke health system that fundraises for a local community organization. This year’s show—which will take place tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.—is fundraising for El Futuro, a community-based organization that connects Spanish-speaking immigrants with culturally sensitive mental health services. 

The show has already raised over $14,000 from ticket sales, medical school departments and Durham businesses. With COVID-19 in mind, seven third-year medical students came together last fall to plan how to film scenes and record a soundtrack to keep the show going. 

Sonali Biswas was one those students. 

“One of the best parts of Duke’s Medical curriculum is that our whole third year is up to us in terms of scheduling,” Biswas said. “That kind of flexibility allowed us time to work on this musical whenever we have free time. We started organizing this probably back in September and filming started in January.”

Medical students collaboratively wrote the script and filmed the Saturday Night Live-style show using cameras from Duke Libraries and the School of Medicine’s IT department, Biswas said. They also had music produced by both medical students and Liquid Fifth Productions in Chapel Hill. 

With the editing help of Rick Melges, the School of Medicine multimedia team's video producer and director, students created a show with 13 skits featuring 10 songs from High School Musical. 

“One of my favorite things about the show is that there will often be breaks in songs where people are doing just completely random unrelated talents, and it's one of the quirkier parts of the show but it brings me so much joy,” Biswas said. “So for example, in one of our High School Musical songs, there's like a tap dancing break, there's like a Bhangra break, there's sort of these opportunities for people to kind of inject themselves onto the show.”

The students held virtual auditions, then spent months planning in-person filming that aligned with campus COVID-19 rules. The cast mainly consists of first-year medical students, but also includes medical students of all years, residents and attending physicians.

“I think one of the most unexpected things was just the degree to which our first-year medical students really embraced the show,” Biswas said.  “I was most surprised by the sort of community they built for themselves and the resilience showed, even though this is not a typical medical school experience by any means.”

As the show’s title implies, the performances involve everyone from students to faculty. Associate Professor of Medicine Saumil Chudgar has been involved in the production both as a School of Medicine student and in his current position as a professor.

“I was a student in the show for three of my four years as a medical student at Duke,” Chudgar said. “I’ve been doing it as a faculty member for about nine years now, so it’s been really fun for me to see it as a student and then see it as a faculty member as well.”

All ticket proceeds go toward El Futuro, and tickets give viewers the ability to watch the show for 72 hours after the premiere. 

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