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'It’s like a dream': Two UNC medical residents to appear on Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune
Photo courtesy of Kyle Montplaisir.

Two medical residents at UNC Hospitals, Emily Newton and Pauline Filippou, will appear on the televised game show "Wheel of Fortune" this week.

Newton and Filippou met in their first year of residency four years ago. The best friends have since had weekly girls’ nights where they enjoy watching "Wheel of Fortune" and competing in the game contests from their homes. 

This time, the pair will appear on this week’s “Girlfriend Getaways” competition on Thursday. The episode was filmed in January. 

“It was just so cool,” Newton said. “I think the whole experience is very surreal. Pauline and I can’t even believe that it happened.”

Newton, a general surgery resident, said she grew up watching "Wheel of Fortune" with her grandparents. She and Filippou will watch their episode premiere this week.

“Everyone was super nice,” Newton said. “Everything was all laid out, and everyone who was there was super excited to be on the show, too. It was just a really cool environment.”

Filippou said it was fun and exciting to be on the show. 

“Seeing Pat and Vanna, seeing a TV studio for the first time," Filippou said. "It was awesome, it was really, really cool.”

The idea of competing on the show came to Filippou when she heard that the Wheelmobile would appear in Durham about two years ago. The Wheelmobile travels across the U.S. to host auditions for anyone interested in competing on the show. Filippou has watched the show since middle school and when she heard about the opportunity to try out, she said she had to take it. 

“I actually auditioned when I was in college and didn’t get on the show,” Filippou said. “I’d always wanted to try to get on the show again.”

This time around, Filippou went to the auditions with her husband. She entered her name into a drawing and was selected to audition for the show. She made it to the final audition and invited Newton to compete with her as a team. 

“I didn’t realize that she had grown up with 'Wheel of Fortune,' and it was also a big part of her life,” Filippou said. “They make you do some word puzzles, make you play the game and watch you.”

The pair received a letter in the mail announcing that they had been selected to compete on the show. They had to wait almost a year before filming their episode in Los Angeles.

Newton and Filippou will be surrounded by friends and coworkers for a premiere party at their program director’s home to celebrate their newfound fame. 

“I’m just super excited for everyone to see the show and to see how we did,” Filippou said. “I just can’t believe this is happening. It’s like a dream.” 

Gopi Narang, a co-resident with Filippou in the urology department, said he will be attending the premiere party for his friends’ appearances on the television show. 

“It will be exciting to see them both on television, to have local stars almost,” he said. “I’m excited for them. They’re both fantastic surgeons, and just great people, so I’m expecting them to be very successful and to break a leg.”

Contestants who appear on the show cannot audition to compete in "Wheel of Fortune" again, but Filippou and Newton both said their experience was worth repeating.

“I would love to be on the show again,” Newton said. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The pair said others should try out for the show. 

“People should just go try out,” Newton said. “It’s crazy that we were on the show, but I think more people could get on. It’s not as hard as you think to get on.”

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