For more than a decade, Hippocrates Cafe has performed for live audiences only. The hour-long show, co-hosted and created by Jon Hallberg, MD, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, started as a personal means to showcase the art of medicine, using story and song to address important healthcare topics. 

“In just over 10 years, I created 115 shows that were performed in eight states across the country for audiences anywhere from seven people for a private show to 1,000 for a large national conference,” said Dr. Hallberg, who is also leading the creation of the Medical School’s Center for the Art of Medicine. “Every show has the same recipe—it would start with music, we’d welcome the audience, and then have a piece that involved actors. We’d follow that pattern all the way through the show about an hour in length.”

This week—for the first time—Hippocrates Cafe will premiere to audiences around the Twin Cities (and potentially the world) through a pre-produced, hour-long episode broadcasted by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT). Featuring 23 local artists and four national performers, the show titled, “Hippocrates Cafe: Reflections on the Pandemic,” is dedicated to healthcare and frontline workers and provides solace and support to all affected by the pandemic.

“I’m so proud of it. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worked on,” said Dr. Hallberg, who co-hosts the episode with Renée Crichlow, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. 

This episode will be unlike previous performances in many ways. Outside of its first-ever debut online and on TV, Dr. Hallberg says the partnership with TPT allowed the show to include more visual beauty and more diversity.

“Suddenly, we had 15 acts,” he said. “And, the thing that I’m happiest and proudest about is that we were able to increase the diversity of the cast in a way that we never been able to do before.”

Dr. Hallberg says the episode is for anyone affected by the pandemic, noting that the show recognizes how many people's daily experiences have changed since the onset of COVID-19. He believes the episode captures the essence of emotions experienced by many and provides hope to them in a way that only art can do.

“A very common reaction might be, ‘Ugh, I’m so sick of the pandemic. I don’t want to watch anything on that.’ My counter to that would be, ‘This episode is about the pandemic, yet it’s really about resilience and beauty,’” he said. “Yes, the scientific breakthroughs are going to change human health—the immunizations, the new understanding of this virus, the knowledge we gain to potentially prevent something like this from happening again—that’s huge, but we still have to make sense of it all. We have to get through this, and we do that with art. The arts provide the glue that keeps us together and gives us hope, meaning and context in understanding what we are going through.”

The episode will premiere during a live virtual event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, free of charge. Then, on Sunday, Sept. 13, it will replay on TPT2 at 8 a.m. and on TPT MN at 7 p.m. Dr. Hallberg encourages everyone to watch and hopes this won’t be the last Hippocrates Cafe made in partnership with TPT.

“This is a turning point for us,” he said. “I would hope that moving forward, we could do one or two shows per year for TPT with different topics, and then have an occasional Hippocrates Cafe Live event when it’s safe again to do so. The TPT crew has been phenomenal. The whole thing has been planned and coordinated virtually, except for the actual filming at locations, so imagine what we can do when the restrictions of face masks and social distancing have been lifted.”