Improvisation & Humor with Dr. Belinda Fu, Dr. John Stevens & Timothy Knowlton

“Improv has really helped me be more me...and to feel comfortable being a human in the room.” Dr. Belinda Fu

Guest Bios

Belinda Fu, MD, (“theImprovDoc”) is Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, and Director of the ImprovDoc/Mayutica Institute, an education and training organization. She completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford, medical education at University of California San Francisco, and residency at University of Washington (UW). Belinda currently serves on the faculty of the UW Family Medicine Residency Network, training faculty and residents across a five-state region. Her primary academic interests include pedagogy, communication, medical humanities, and clinician wellbeing. Belinda is an international leader in the field of medical improv, and co-organized the first Medical Improv Train-the-Trainer Workshops. She performs improv as an ensemble member of Seattle Theatresports™.

Dr. John Stevens is a board-certified family medicine physician and Associate Program Director of Curriculum for Swedish Family Medicine Residency – First Hill (SFMR-FH) in Seattle, Washington. He earned his BS in Chemistry with minor in Theater at Gonzaga University where he was an active member of Gonzaga University Theatresports, known lovingly as GUTS. He completed his medical degree at the University of Washington School of Medicine, residency at SFMR-FH, and faculty development fellowship through the University of Washington. He is passionate about addiction medicine and runs the addiction medicine area of concentration for SFMR-FH.

He has been an improviser for over 20 years and is currently a company member with Unexpected Productions in Seattle, where he has performed in many shows including An Improvised Hip-Hopera, Improvised Survivor, and TheatreSports. When he is not in the clinic or on the stage, he finds joy in running, tabletop and video games, and adventuring with his wife and three children.

Timothy Knowlton is a fourth year medical student at Tulane University, applying for residency training in Emergency Medicine. He studied percussion performance at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University before returning to his hometown of Philadelphia, where he worked as a music educator and performer for eight years before beginning medical school. In addition to improvising in many musical settings on various instruments, Tim has performed his live music in collaboration with improv comedy stage performers at the Philly Improv Theater. The lessons Tim has learned from practicing music, engaging with improvisation, and finding humor continue to live on and grow as integral parts of his personal and professional life.

Episode Pearls

Dr. Belinda Fu’s 3 clusters of improv skills

  • Attune: Read the person, read the room.

  • Affirm: “Yes...”: affirm the other person’s reality.

  • Advance: “And…” Move things forward.

Further Reading

  • Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Watson

  • Improv Nation by Sam Wasson

Reflection Questions

  1. What makes you laugh in your day-to-day life?

  2. Think of a recent time when you used “yes and” in a patient interaction or in a challenging conversation with a friend or loved one - what did that feel like?

  3. Think of a time someone came up with an idea and you built upon it.

GOAL: Pay attention to how often do you use “yes but” in daily conversation? was it necessary? can you replace it with “yes and”?