Faculty and students 'got talent'

[flv]http://www.med.ufl.edu/video/02-2009 – insider – talent show 2009.mp4[/flv]

The theater was neither in Los Angeles, nor was there a live broadcast, but UF’s College of Medicine faculty and students most certainly have talent. Like the popular show, performances ran the gamut at The Talent Show 2009 presented by the College of Medicine on Saturday, Feb. 21.

Sound and lighting technicians and performers scurried about before they finally disappeared and the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s Auditorium went black. Faculty and students appeared before vibrantly colored backdrops as they performed for their peers, family and friends at a fundraiser to support five international health trips that will take place over spring break. Though the list of international health trips seems to grow every day, this spectacle supported two trips to the Dominican Republic called DR HELP and Dr. Salud, as well as Project Haiti, Project HEAL, which travels to Ecuador and Project Yucatan.

The 13 acts included singing, dancing and, yes, baton twirling.

First up was Sean Wimberley, a second-year student in the College of Pharmacy whose baton-twirling skills were far beyond anything found at a typical parade march. Wimberley’s act was gymnastic and vigorous as he twirled to the tune “Holiday” by Green Day. Wimberley is a world champion baton twirler who plans to audition for NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

Other acts included traditional Indian solo dances by Ronica Hazariwala and Kavita Rajasekharr, both second-year medical students; a junior microbiology major, David Wymer, played a classical score on piano; Peter Salib, a third-year medical student, sang and strummed; and Mike Boniface, a second-year medical student, also sang for the crowd. The East Waldo Stunnas, featuring first- and second-year medical students Daniel Lombardo and Aaron Kline with friend Megan Norman finished off the program with “Let it Ride” by Ryan Adams.

Some performers showcased their talents on stage for the first time.

First-year medical student Frank Han sang in Hebrew, one of the four languages in which he is fluent. This was a stretch for Han though he has performed on stage since middle school playing instruments such as the piano, violin, harpsichord and the flute. An accidental Dave Matthews look-a-like, Justin Hewlett, a first-year medical student, impressed the crowd with his voice and guitar.

Impressive, too, was the amount of participation from talented faculty.

“It’s awesome that they share their musical talent in support of us going to foreign countries and giving health care to underserved populations,” said Han.

Kline of the East Waldo Stunnas said, “It shows me that our instructors care about us.”

Dr. Juan Cendan, department of surgery’s clerkship director, supported the trips with his performance of a soothing guitar suite by a classical Italian composer. Dr. Robert Averbuch, assistant professor for the department of psychiatry, sang to the strumming of Dr. Stephen Hsu, director of the M.D./Ph.D. Program.

Donned in orange jackets, blue vests and blue ties were The Phlegm Tones. The quirky barbershop quartet, formed just for this special occasion, is no stranger to the stage though this was their first time performing together. Bass vocalist Dr. Richard Condit, professor for the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, recruited Dave Jacobs, tenor and administrative assistant for the department of pediatrics, Andy Hunn, lead and senior computer support specialist for the department of pediatrics, and John Dew, baritone and accountant for the College of Pharmacy.

“Over the years I have gained enormous respect for medical students and doctors and for the work they do. This is a group of incredibly talented and dedicated individuals, who are some of the hardest working people I know and many of whom have a social conscience that is broad, deep and awe-inspiring,” Condit said.

There was an appropriate balance to the event between fun and underlying purpose. Between acts, a comedic pair of emcees took to the stage, as did faculty and students who presented messages of gratitude and reflections of past trips. First-year medical student emcees Jennifer Rodney, who also performed “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, and Wilmer Moreno kept the audience laughing and the program moving. But the reason everyone gathered was not forgotten.

Dr. Judy Simms-Cendan, clinical associate professor for the department of obstetrics and gynecology thanked families and friends for their continued financial support of their medical student’s education. She also explained why the extra effort was worthwhile.

“Only 20 percent of medical students participated in 1991 when the (health) trips started,” said Simms-Cendan, “now, up to 80 percent of second-year students go.”

She described the bonding between faculty and medical students that occurs on the trip, but the best part of the experience was unexpected. For Simms-Cendan, the biggest reward was not the opportunity to treat diseases not seen in the US every day, but, she said, “serving patients so grateful for our care.”