Charlotte Delaney: Doctor By Day, Actress By Night
When Einstein alumna Charlotte Delaney entered her residency program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 2016, many of her peers already knew who she was. That’s because a couple of years earlier, while attending Einstein, she had created a musical parody video of Beauty and the Beast about the difficult life of a second-year medical student. The video — filmed on the Einstein campus, starring her with some classmates and friends — went “med school viral,” as she puts it, and currently has more than 300,000 views on YouTube.
“They need to drop out and major in musical theatre!” reads one of the YouTube comments.
Little did viewers of the video know, during college Charlotte was a major in musical theater.
The 35-year-old has two passions in life: musical theater and medicine. Before pursuing a career in medicine, her lifelong love of singing and dancing led to a career in musical theater.
Even when she gave that up to pursue medicine, she found the time to keep her first passion alive. At Einstein, she was the musical director of the Lymph Notes (Einstein’s long-running a cappella group) and starred in other med school parodies of Frozen, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Little Mermaid.
Now, as she completes her clinical training at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, in a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics, Charlotte’s back in the spotlight in a big way. Since early 2018, she has performed in community theater productions of The Music Man, Singing in the Rain, and her all-time favorite, The Little Mermaid. The latter role earned her a nomination for best lead actress in a musical from the Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters.
She’s done this, somehow, while working up to 15-hour shifts on pediatric wards.
“It takes a lot of organization and time management, a lot of support from other residents, the administration, and faculty at the school — and a little bit of insanity,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s just so much fun.”
Music to Medicine
Charlotte grew up in Pelham, New York, just five miles from Einstein. She’s always loved to sing and dance. During middle school and high school she starred in dozens of musicals. She studied music and psychology at Williams College before earning a master’s in musical theater from New York University in 2008. She then performed in and around New York City for a few years, but soon found the life of endless auditions wasn’t for her.
Inspired by her dad, Einstein’s Brian Delaney, M.D. (class of 1983), Charlotte decided to change careers. “My father worked as an English professor before enrolling in Einstein in his 30s, so it never seemed weird to me to pursue a new career a little bit later in life,” she said.
At the time that she was deciding where to go for medical school, her dad was a professor in Einstein’s department of family and social medicine. She chose Einstein because she felt it supported students who were approaching medicine as a second or third career.
She found a home here. “I love Einstein. It was the perfect place for me,” she said. “Finding the Lymph Notes was a joy.”
In the same way that singing in the Lymph Notes provided a welcome mental break from studying at Einstein, community theater now gives Charlotte a break from a rigorous residency schedule.
“It helps me be a little more resilient and bounce back a little easier,” she said. “It keeps everything in perspective. Even though I’m spending all these extra hours at rehearsal after working a lengthy shift, I still feel less emotionally tired.”
During a few rare minutes of downtime during an overnight shift in late 2017, Charlotte looked up community theater companies in Massachusetts. By chance, she noticed that a local company was doing a production of The Little Mermaid and the audition was on her birthday.
“I thought it was fate,” she said. She was cast as one of Ariel’s sisters, which was a nice reintroduction to the world of musical theater because it required less rehearsal time. When that finished, however, she was hooked. There was another production of The Little Mermaid, so she auditioned — and this time was cast in the starring role of Ariel.
“I was so ecstatic. I’ve been obsessed with The Little Mermaid since I was a child. This was a dream come true,” she said.
After that, she had the lead female role in Singing in the Rain and, most recently, she starred as Marian the librarian in The Music Man.
“One of the great challenges of musical theater is creating a connection to a character — which is similar to the challenge of connecting to a patient in medicine,” observed Charlotte.
“Every character is kind of like a mystery that needs to be unlocked. I enjoy exploring characters that have different viewpoints than my own to get inside the character, to figure out what makes them tick, what motivates them to do what they do. It’s fascinating.”
She wants to work in adolescent medicine because she “loves the challenge of trying to forge a connection with a teenager who doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
She added, “I’m trying to connect with a patient that may have a different viewpoint than I do, to get inside and sort of see what’s motivating them, what’s bothering them.”
Juggling Two Passions
Joel Seger, co-founder of Vanilla Box Productions who directed The Music Man, called Charlotte’s performance as Marian “phenomenal” because she found a way to update the character for 2019 within the framework of the original play.
“The remarkable thing is that she’s a resident, and we all know what that takes. It’s a grind. We’re all very impressed that she’s able to fit this other passion in and make it work. She’s very talented.”
He added, “You don’t see too many doctors moonlighting in community theater.”
Charlotte has encountered one, however. A primary care physician who owned her own private practice was on the cast of The Little Mermaid last year.
“I would come to rehearsal in my scrubs and she would say to me, ‘You’re a crazy person,’” said Charlotte.
Perhaps. Yet she has found a perfect outlet for her to relieve the stresses of residency.
Posted on: Monday, December 16, 2019