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Wednesday October 5th

Production combines health care debate with theater

Todd P. Lewis, a senior working on his honors thesis, has written a play that explores the lives of those without health care access. 
 Nilan Johnson(black shirt), Lauren Hovis, and Izzy Francke
Buy Photos Todd P. Lewis, a senior working on his honors thesis, has written a play that explores the lives of those without health care access. Nilan Johnson(black shirt), Lauren Hovis, and Izzy Francke

One UNC senior is putting a face to the national health care debate by bringing it to the stage for his honors thesis.

Todd Lewis, a senior majoring in health policy and management, said he decided to create the production, “The Doctor Will See You Now,” after he volunteered at a children’s medical clinic in eastern Uganda.

SEE THE SHOW

Time: 5:30 p.m. tonight
Location: Blue Cross Blue Shield Auditorium, Gillings School of Global Public Health

The clinic had a trauma troop that would put together songs, dances and skits that they would perform for different villages, Lewis said.

Lewis, a participant in theater since age 5, said he was interested in this connection between health care education and theater.

“(The troop’s performances) just had an incredible impact,” Lewis said. “It just hit me that I could replicate this idea for the Chapel Hill and UNC community.”

He said he began creating his production after finding the book “Uninsured in America.”

In the book, Americans without access to health care are interviewed and describe their individual qualities of life.

“I selected certain stories from the book, turned them into first-person monologues and built a voice for each character,” Lewis said. “The facts of their stories are true.”

Lewis said the research portion of his thesis will occur after the production.

He said he will send audience members a competency survey after the production that will measure the empathy they felt at different points in the production.

“I’m trying to assess, can a play or theatrical production disseminate health knowledge as successfully as a journal article or traditional lecture,” Lewis said.

Lewis said he believes access to health care is a basic human right and should not be denied to anyone — even undocumented immigrants.

Lauren Hovis, a UNC senior and actress in the play, said she agreed with Lewis that the Affordable Care Act is a necessary step for the U.S., but that it could have gone further.

“I just hope that this production will put a face to a lot of the policy costs and numbers we’ve been seeing recently,” Hovis said.

Luke Wander, a senior majoring in Chinese and history, portrays a young teacher who struggles with accepting a job that would give him health coverage for his recurring knee injury, or pursuing his real, uninsured dream — teaching.

“I see the health care system as a giant mess that seems to harm just about everyone involved, from patients to doctors,” Wander said. “At the same time, my dad is a family doctor, so from his perspective I’ve seen the way ‘Obamacare’ really hampers his ability for him to do his job.”

Regardless of personal views, Lewis said he hopes audience members will at least consider a new side of this debate.

“People look at it purely as a financial argument and the sustainability, and they make good points,” he said. “But you can’t remove the moral element from the question.”

Contact the desk editor at arts@dailytarheel.com.

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