Renowned physician uses magic to help medical students connect more with patients

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What does magic and medicine have in common? You probably think – not a whole lot. But Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, a renowned physician at Northwestern University believes doctors can learn a lot from magicians.

Rosenkrantz has been studying and performing magic for 20 years—he is also one of Chicago’s top doctors. He’s a professor of clinical pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School Of Medicine and doctor in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“I realized that magic and medicine have all sorts of connections,” he said.

Born and raised in Mexico, he first fell in love with magic when he walked into a magic store in Mexico City.

He walked into a magic store 20 years ago and since then, he’s careful honed his craft, even building up to a 90-minute stage show called “The Physician Magician.”

For 10 years he’s been teaching a course in magic and medicine at Northwestern. He tells his students there is no substitute for the science of medicine, but in learning magic, a young doctor can improve his or her skills in communication, storytelling and ultimately connecting more with patients.

Because physicians are often tasked with such difficult and life changing conversations, the performance aspect of being a good doctor is essential.

Faculty members said Rosenkrantz’s course is among the school’s most popular.

“We always ask for feedback at end of course, his feedback is always off the charts, really positive,” Sue Anne Tae, medical curriculum coordinator, said.

When describing the similarities between magic and medicine – he’s careful to use the word illusion, instead of negative words like “deception.”

“Everything in our life is an illusion,” he said. “We think we’re healthy but maybe something hasn’t reared itself up yet.”

At the end of his course, he gives students a choice:

“You can write a 15-page essay or you can perform in a magic, in 10 years no one has ever written an essay,” he said.

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