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Theatre: A Microcosm for Society & Veterinary Medicine

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

You may be wondering, how on Earth could you learn about veterinary medicine while working on or seeing a theatrical production? How do those two fields even relate to each other?

I have been involved with theatre since I was in high school were I was in a Performing Arts program (FPAC represent!) focusing on Stage Production. It was through theatre that I quickly learned that the theatre is a microcosmic representation of our current society, culture, and environment. Theatre is up on the front lines of telling the story that needs to be told during that time period. Take the Golden Age of musicals for example (1940s-1950s), musicals from this era (Cabaret, On the Town) showcased life during times of war and the previous decade of prohibition. The next decade brought us the musical Hair, which ushered us into the hippie era while trying to turn the attention away from the Vietnam War. Looking at musicals of today, we see Hamilton making history, revolutionizing how we teach US History and use of art as a resource to help educate students. Finally, we have musicals tackling more sensitive topics like The Prom, a story about an Indiana-native high school student who cannot bring her girlfriend to prom. Then there is Dear Evan Hansen, the musical I had the opportunity to see just last week.

Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of a quiet, introverted high school boy who wrote a letter to himself that was never meant to be seen by anyone, but instead becomes a viral story that helps Evan get what he's always been longing for; a chance to be noticed and fit in. The story discusses the hard topics of suicide, mourning a death, loss, and the powerful notion of reaching out and checking in with people; those who seem like they are in need, and even those you don't. The musical hits on what it is like to be forgotten, lonely and feel like you're on your own to finally being found and elevated to emotional heights only an introverted child could dream of reaching.

Without giving too much away (you'll have to see it for yourself to really get the full experience! After all, theatre is meant to be seen in person as opposed to watched through a recording!), the musical served as a reminder to me for a very important issue in veterinary medicine. Too often do we hear about mental health and suicide stories in the news, especially in our profession. Recently, The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) participated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in researching Suicide among veterinarians in the United States from 1979 through 2015. The study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, reported female veterinarians were 3.5 times as likely, and male veterinarians were 2.1 times as likely, to die from suicide as the general population, and that 1 out of every 6 veterinarians have considered suicide. The numbers are even more concerning when looking at veterinary students, given the difficult curriculum, the pressure to succeed, and towering student loans that many students face. In a profession faced with these issues like veterinary medicine, it is important that everyone is there for each other, checks in on friends, colleagues, coworkers, students and even our clients. This is a battle that is going to take everyone of us to become a steward of promoting positivity, compassion, communication, and comfort. As Evan Hansen says, "Nobody deserves to be forgotten, nobody deserves to fade away."

Sometimes, articles and stories don't do something justice. Take a listen to two of the most powerful songs in Dear Evan Hansen below:

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