#MedCanes Chronicles: D&D Game Master, Improv Actor and Future Pediatrician

“#MedCanes Chronicles” offers first-person perspectives into the lives of medical students on their journey to becoming health care leaders. The series delves into the personal narratives of these aspiring doctors and scientists, shedding light on their struggles, triumphs and the resilience that propels them forward.

Akeim George, M.D., M.P.H., Class of 2024 President; Student, Scholarship Recipient and Future Pediatrician

Akeim George standing outside at the UHealth campus in Miami

“How do you want to do this?”

It’s a phrase I often use as a Game Master in “Dungeons & Dragons” (D&D), setting the stage for adventurers to explore, make decisions and shape a narrative all their own. In these moments, they gain agency and a sense of autonomy in a realm where the consequences of their decisions are immediate and impactful.

Nearly every week, we journey together through tales of heroism and hardship, bringing to life characters who defy challenges and face fears in fantastical worlds. This complex game of weird dice and whimsical creatures has honed my skills as a teacher, guide and facilitator, allowing me to build skills critical for any physician. In both medicine and D&D, there is a necessity for understanding, a call to navigate unfamiliar situations and an emphasis on the individual’s story. More than an escape from the challenges of medical school, D&D has helped me grow more confident in connecting with and empowering diverse individuals.

When I saw my classmate Jovanka Ravix’s graduation show at the Villain Theater in Little Haiti, I instantly knew what my next creative project would be. When my medical school schedule opened up, I enrolled in their introduction to improv class and performed in my graduation show after eight weeks of classes.

Akiem George onstage at the Villain Theater, with two other improv actors
Akiem plans to use the lessons he learned in improv during his pediatrics residency.

During these weeks, we were taught the importance of listening without a pre-defined script and how to quickly build strong relationships with your scene partners. Similar to D&D, I could be whatever I wanted: A genie’s talking dog, an immortal crab or a forgetful grandma giving Tupperware to her precious grandbabies. In whatever settings we conjure up, the heart of every scene is supporting the choices of those we share the stage with to drive a story forward.

For all the enjoyment and laughs that these hobbies have brought me, they’ve also proved valuable in other settings. The reality people face is often much harsher than the worlds I create as a Game Master in D&D or an improviser on stage. With accelerating disasters from climate change, increasing income inequality and an epidemic of loneliness, it’s easy for people to feel helpless. This is especially true for kids whose voices are often sidelined by the adults who make decisions for them.

In one of my elective clinics, a teenage girl presented with recurrent headaches. For much of the visit, her mom answered my questions and we were set to prescribe migraine medication and move on. However, by simply asking her mom to leave the room and asking the patient to tell me about herself, I discovered her struggles—coming out to her family, feeling as if she may have undiagnosed autism and managing the stress that comes with being a teen.

Asking how she wanted to move forward, we were able to connect her with additional resources to deal with the fundamental causes of her headaches rather than providing temporary relief.

During my time at the Miller School of Medicine, I’ve sought to be a bridge between individuals and their leaders, working to build a stronger and more inclusive system at multiple levels. In meetings through the Florida Medical Association, I’ve had 10 minutes or less to do all of the following: Form a connection with the legislator or their staffer, establish why they should care about our discussion, present a compelling story about the discussion topic and, eventually, get them to see my point of view.

That’s shorter than most improv sets. In these meetings, the principles of improv always come to mind: Active listening to what concerns someone may have, paying attention to their reactions and adding details when appropriate, and, ultimately, leaving a strong impression.

Looking forward to residency in pediatrics, I will have the opportunity to merge my all passions as a gamer, caregiver, improviser and advocate for my patients. I will use these skills to not only treat illnesses but to also address underlying social determinants, all while putting smiles on everyone’s faces.

By doing so, I believe I can make a profound difference in the lives of my patients, one adventure at a time.

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Tags: MedCanes Chronicles, medical students, Miller School of Medicine