He's A Doctor; He Also Plays One On TV
10/27/11 5:50PM By Susan Keese
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(Host) With all the medical advertising on television these days, the old line, "I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV," still gets a chuckle. In Bennington, a Broadway set designer who became a practicing physician - is giving new meaning to the phrase. VPR's Susan Keese has the story.
(Keese) The man onscreen with the green scrubs and shoulder-length hair is a real doctor. He's a hospitalist at Bennington's Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, but try explaining that to a puppet.
(Sherman) "I'm a hospitalist."
(Puppet) " Aw man, I thought you weren't going to use any big words."
(Keese) In the 25 minute pilot of his television show "100 Hospital Drive Dr." Joshua Sherman does keep it simple.
He says Americans on average understand health issues at about a third-grade level. So he hopes to create a TV series that will get people more involved in their own good health.
(Sherman) "I see this show as sort of a first step in creating a much healthier nation. It's really just a creative way to help people understand their bodies."
(Keese) With music and effects, Sherman conveys that a hospitalist is a doctor who takes care of you while you're in the hospital.
The show bounces along with half a dozen fast-paced skits: a pediatrician instructs a puppet on safe toys; a cardiologist plays a drum kit to illustrate heart rhythms, and a nutritionist.
(Nutritionist) "Remember that your best source of hydration is water."
(Keese) Show business runs deep in Sherman's blood. His mother is an Emmy-winning playwright and lyricist and his aunt is a composer. His father is a medical doctor. But Sherman says it was always the arts that drew him. He grew up in Kansas City, learning tap and ballroom dancing, seeing plays and meeting broadway icons.
(Sherman) "I moved to New York when I was 16. And by the time I was 18 I worked on my first Broadway show, which was ‘Annie Get Your Gun' with Bernadette Peters."
(Keese) Sherman went to college and majored in set design. He was starting his senior year when he learned he needed a science credit. He took a course in nutrition, during which he says, a light bulb went off.
(Sherman) "And I realized that I could be a doctor. I realized that all the skills I had developed unintentionally as a designer - skills of observation, attention to detail, communication, collaboration, dealing with egos. All of these skills were really the same skills used in medicine."
(Keese) It took a while to make up all the undergraduate science courses he had ignored. But Sherman did become a doctor.
He came to Bennington in part because he had friends there. He spent a summer at the Southern Vermont Arts Center working on a musical about Norman Rockwell.
Sherman has stayed active in theater and the arts. He says he loves being a doctor.
(Sherman) "I think that because I came to medicine from an arts perspective there's a certain humanity that I bring to medicine that I try to bring to every encounter with patients and their families."
(Keese) He worked with Antonio Panetta at Bennington's CAT-TV to develop "100 Hospital Drive." The pilot will be shown next month on the local public access station.
For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.