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University of Iowa News Release


April 4, 2008

Play 'Grand Rounds' explores cancer from patients' perspectives

University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine faculty members Loreen Herwaldt, M.D., and Marcy Rosenbaum, Ph.D., will present their play "Grand Rounds: Experiencing Cancer" at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 25-26, at Shambaugh Auditorium on the UI campus. There will be open discussion with the cast and authors following each performance.

Written by Herwaldt, Rosenbaum and Austin Bunn, a graduate of the UI Writers' Workshop, "Grand Rounds" explores the physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of cancer from the perspectives of cancer patients.

Annette Rohlk is the play's director, and the cast is comprised of area actors.

The "Grand Rounds" from the play's title refers to an aspect of medical training where physicians, medical residents and students gather to discuss the clinical cases of one or more patients.

"The patients' stories are the key," said Herwaldt, a professor in the UI Department of Internal Medicine. "You learn how they get the news they have cancer, what cancer treatment can do to one's life and family, what it means to face the issues of death and dying, and what we as physicians can, or cannot, do about it."

The idea for the play came as Herwaldt was editing her book, "Patient Listening," published this spring by the UI Press. She collaborated with Rosenbaum, a UI associate professor of family medicine who, as part of her research on patient-physician communication, has conducted many interviews with patients who have cancer.

The authors initially condensed interviews with more than 60 patients into a series of monologues, but the project needed the help of an experienced playwright, Herwaldt said, which led to Bunn joining the project. Bunn, who studied both fiction and playwriting as a student in the Writers' Workshop, is also known for establishing the Patient Voice Project, a creative writing program for people with chronic medical conditions.

"Austin was instrumental in editing the monologues and creating a dramatic interaction between the characters. He really helped shape the play," Herwaldt said.

Herwaldt and Rosenbaum hope that "Grand Rounds" gives people, both patients and health care providers, a renewed perspective on treating and dealing with serious illness.

"Our hope is that both patients and health care providers can take away something from this play -- how communication and collaboration can lead to better care. One size doesn't fit all," Herwaldt said.

"Grand Rounds: Experiencing Cancer" is open to the public. There is a $5 suggested donation (cash or check only) for admission. All profits will be donated to the Cancer Information Service at the UI's Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Doors open at 7:30. For more information, contact Rosenbaum at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032,