Talking about Health and Medicine

– from Evonne Kaplan-Liss MD MPH, Alda Center Steering Committee, speaking on “Medicine In Plain Language.” Pence, R. and Hansen, P. (Producers). (2013, July 14). Radio Health Journal [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from
We use innovative methods to help medical students learn to connect and communicate responsively with patients, families, colleagues and the public.The Alda Center method includes improvisational theater exercises, as well as other techniques, to help doctors-in-training learn to listen intently, read verbal and nonverbal cues, and respond with greater empathy. Students who took our 18-hour interprofessional elective strongly endorsed the experience and said they thought the course content should be incorporated into the medical school curriculum. The Stony Brook School of Medicine has now mandated 10 hours of Alda Center instruction for all incoming students.
Alda Improv Session JumpThe Alda Center is offering a Health Track within our Summer Institute June 8-12, 2015. We invite you to learn more about our approach and explore ways of collaborating at Stony Brook University. That program is intended for faculty and administrators of medical, nursing and dental schools who want to experience our approach and find out more about our collaborative network of affiliated programs. In addition to the School of Medicine curriculum we are teaching, our on-campus programs, at Stony Brook University, include an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Health Communications, in collaboration with the Program in Public Health. Students typically include medical students, public health students, physicians, nurses, health outreach and education workers, and health counselors. In addition, we offer an elective in Communicating Health Sciences open to medical, nursing and dental medicine students. This course, which includes use of improvisational theater exercises, has been featured on the CBS Sunday Morning News, among other media outlets.

We have conducted presentations or workshops for:
  • Rockefeller University
  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Cornell University
  • American Association of Medical Colleges
  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
  • Council of Graduate Schools Annual Meeting
  • Mount Sinai Medical Center
  • Nassau County Department of Health
  • National Cancer Institute
  • Weill Cornell Medical College
  • National Cancer Institute
  • World Science Festival
  • National Institutes of Health
  • University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Nassau County (NY) Department of Health
  • Council of Faculty and Academic Societies (AAMC)
  • American Physiological Society
  • And many more…
We are currently available for Workshops.Contact Workshop Coordinator Christine O’Connell at for more information.
“Improv and the class overall has impacted my studying and view of my other classes because I was so focused on the science/vocab all the time that I forgot how it felt not to know, and trying to explain in simple terms via improv on the spot really challenged my ability to communicate; in addition translating complex science via a system has helped me perform better in school because I can now translate for myself the complex things we read into simple language to learn it better.”

– First-year medical student

“It’s a refreshing perspective on our training . . . and it has helped me in terms of practicing my public speaking and also has served as therapy in some ways.”

– Second-year medical student

“Served to reinforce the importance of “distilling” my message in a way that’s easy to digest.”

– PhD nursing student

“The course was different than our clinical stimulations because we practice with trained patients who know exactly what to say and how to react to our statements and they never seem confused or question why we are asking unrelated questions to their chief complaint…in the improv sessions I quickly realized that not only do I have to ask the right questions, but also I have to explain to the patient why I am asking those seemingly unrelated questions…”

– First-year medical student

Learn more: Videos
Improv with Alan and medical and nursing students:

Student Feedback:

Learn more: Audio

Using Analogies to Communicate Effectively with Patients

How Do You Know Your Patients Understand You?

Dangers of Miscommunication in Science

Using Improv to Become a Better Communicator

The Prism Podcast – Episode 37 (or search for Prism Podcast, episode 37, on iTunes)

Learn more: Articles

Legendary Actor Alan Alda Visits Weill Cornell’s Oates Communcations Skills Curriculum

Overcoming the Curse of Knowledge

Talking the Talk: Training Scientists in the Art of Communication

Actor Alan Alda Advises AAMC Attendees on How to Talk About Medical Science