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Laughter and Medicine

Sophomore Max Shafer enjoys a challenge, both in and out of the classroom. His unique combination of major and extracurricular activities keeps him focused and allows him opportunities to do what he loves.

Shafer is studying pre-medicine and hopes to become a pediatrician or a family doctor. “I want a career that will be challenging, but also one where I can help people,” Shafer said. He says his studies can sometimes be difficult, but he knows by persevering he will achieve what he wants.

To get a break from his demanding academics, Shafer participates in On the Fly, the University’s improvisational comedy troupe. “It really allows me to be myself,” Shafer said.

Shafer’s involvement in theatre and improv began in high school, but not in a way he was expecting. “I was put in a theatre class on accident,” Shafer remembers. “After the first class, though, I was convinced to try out for the shows.”

During his first months at UD, Shafer was having a hard time finding his place, so he decided to go back to what was familiar to him: acting. He auditioned for On the Fly and has enjoyed the experience ever since. “On the Fly is very supportive group of people and we want to see each other succeed,” Shafer said. “I really like being able to perform alongside them and give people a laugh.”

Despite pre-med and improv being very different disciplines, Shafer sees a strong connection between the two. “In acting, you are 100% responsible for learning your script and performing your role to the best of your ability. You open yourself up to the judgement of others and it requires a certain level of vulnerability,” Shafer says. “The same things apply to medicine. You have to go in knowing exactly what your role is and how to execute it. There are high amounts of pressure in both situations, and I have a good understanding of the amount of preparation for both.”

Shafer also says he has been able to apply his improv skills in situations offstage. As a volunteer at Hospice of Dayton, he can talk to patients with ease and knows how to get a response from them. Shafer credits his volunteer work and improv with helping him develop his communication skills even further.

With all he has going on, Shafer says he has learned the importance of prioritizing, setting goals and sleeping. Having a balance between academics and extracurricular activities is crucial to his success as a student and a performer. “By having a sense of what’s important to me I find it easier to reach my goals,” he said. “I can stick to the things I’m good at and continue to work hard.”


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