Editor's note: This story first appeared in the spring 2020 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.


What started as a hobby for Anne Graff LaDisa, PharmD, BCPS, turned out to be a valuable—albeit unconventional—teaching tool.

LaDisa, who serves as associate professor of pharmacy practice at Concordia, was in her first year working as a pharmacist when she decided she should explore a passion beyond pharmacy, lest her life become consumed with work. She turned to ComedySportz Milwaukee, a local improvisation comedy group that also offers classes for hobbyist or budding comedians.

Through ComedySportz, LaDisa met three women with whom she founded a sketch comedy group. The foursome still meets to write and rehearse together almost weekly, and about twice a year they perform original shows in the Milwaukee area.

“We’ve managed to hold our rehearsals sacred over the years, even through marriages, having children, and other life changes,” LaDisa said. “It’s a time we all look forward to each week because it’s a creative outlet for us so that we can be our best in all the other areas of our lives.”

Turns out, improv has been found to play a role in improving clear communication, active listening, team collaboration, and decision-making faculties—all necessary skills in pharmacy practice.

It wasn’t a stretch then for LaDisa to apply her craft within the classroom.

Related: TMJ4: CUW pharmacy prof uses improv to teach healthcare communication

For the past five years, LaDisa has been introducing pharmacy students at Concordia to applied improvisation lessons, with a lens toward building professional competencies.

HAPPY 10TH BIRTHDAY, SCHOOL OF PHARMACY! It's been a decade since Concordia admitted its first pharmacy students. More than 500 Christ-inspired pharmacists are now in the field.

“There are plenty of reasons pharmacists need to be quick on their feet,” LaDisa said. “For one, agility and clear communication are safeguards against errors that could have life or death implications, but they also lend themselves to improving the overall patient experience. Multitasking, collaboration, the ability to pick up on emotions and non-verbal cues, these are all things that can be taught through improv, and they’re all necessary to practice good pharmacy.”

Learn more about CUW’s School of Pharmacy at cuw.edu/pharmacy.

The spring 2020 Concordian hit mailboxes the end of April. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email Jennifer.Hackmann@cuaa.edu

— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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