Why Pick One Career When You Can Have Three?
Belinda Fu, MD, Physician, Clinical Instructor, and Improv Actor
Belinda Fu, MD, is a triple threat: Faculty Physician at Valley Family Medicine Residency in Renton, Wash., Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Improv Actor/Instructor at Seattle's Unexpected Productions.
In addition, two years ago, Fu combined her interests in medicine, teaching, and improv theater into a new venture: Medical Improv, an organization that uses improv techniques to improve clinical communication, cognition, teamwork, and patient care.
"My interest in Medical Improv was a natural, if unexpected, outgrowth of the overlapping of my two worlds," Fu says. "As I was becoming more proficient in improv, I started noticing that my improv skills were improving my communication skills at work, both with colleagues and with patients. It occurred to me that this could be a highly effective way to teach our residents communication skills, which are notoriously difficult to teach."
Fu began speaking with her colleagues about her idea, until one mentioned that Katie Watson, a professor in the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, was teaching improv to medical students. She reached out to Prof. Watson, and the two decided to collaborate.
Teaching and improv have played a significant part in helping Fu find her niche in the medical profession.
"I decided to be pre-med during my sophomore year in college, and had always imagined family medicine as my specialty, but I honestly didn't know what I had gotten myself into when I started medical school," Fu says.
During her year off, Fu worked full-time as a Course Assistant at Stanford, her undergraduate alma mater.
"It was my first formal teaching experience, and I absolutely loved it," she says.
If you want to be a physician, be prepared to make a hefty investment of time and money. Doctors must get an undergraduate degree, a medical degree, and do a residency. At minimum, Fu notes, that takes 11 years, and longer for some specialties.
Fu did her residency at the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency program, her first choice, due to its outstanding academic environment and ample teaching opportunities. After finishing her residency, she stayed at UW for another year as Chief Resident.
The best part of her job is the people.
"It is an incredible, humbling privilege to play a part in the lives of my patients, to witness their most private struggles, events, and personal stories, and to help them as best as I can," says Fu. "Similarly, it is an equal privilege to be a mentor and guide to the young physicians whom I teach, helping them along their own personal education and career journey."