Playing doctor

By Jennifer McFee - Burnaby NewsLeader - June 13, 2008

 Lead actress, professional physician, soundtrack composer and accomplished musician.

These are just a few of the items on 29-year-old Yvette Lu's resume.

Following in her mother's footsteps, Yvette wandered down an 11-year academic path to become a family physician. She studied hard, joking with other students that she gave her 20s to medicine, leaving exercise and social life by the wayside.

But along the way, she stumbled across another passion.

While taking an elective theatre course, Yvette was bit by the acting bug. Or maybe she always had it, since as a little girl she'd envision herself as the main character in every movie she'd watch.

After more than a decade of intense studies, Lu said she finally feels free. Last July, she graduated from UBC as a doctor of family medicine. A month later, she auditioned on a whim for a short film called Food for the Gods. She took the last audition slot on the last day and, to her surprise, was offered the lead.

Less than a year later, the Burnaby woman has now finished her fourth film.

“At first I thought I liked acting because I like telling stories. I think what keeps me there is that it's so freeing. It allows me to express all the emotional stuff I go through in medicine and tell it as stories. Being a doctor gives me insight into people's stories because I witness them.”

Sometimes the stories are not easy to watch. While completing her residency in Burnaby Hospital's palliative care unit, Yvette often found herself biting her lip to hold back her tears.

“I had to hold it in because I don't think people want to see doctors cry.”

These days, Yvette takes acting classes four days per week. On Fridays, she practises medicine at her mother's clinic. Because of her dual passions, she is an anomaly to most of her friends. Her classmates from med school find it odd that she's acting. Her acting colleagues can hardly believe she works part time as a physician.

“I'm interested in so many things. Sometimes it gets spread thin. I think I must be more of a generalist in personality and character.”

Yvette's general interests extend far beyond medicine and acting. Drawing on her musical training in voice, piano and flute, she took a chance and offered to co-compose and sing the soundtrack for Food for the Gods. She also wrote the soundtrack for Servants of War, the second short film she starred in.

While filming Servants, Yvette would go home covered in bruises from doing her own stunts in the World War II film. Over and over, she had to re-enact a violent scene where she was thrown against a wall by Japanese soldiers.

She also had to enlist the help of her parents, originally from Hong Kong, to help her translate her lines from English to Cantonese.

“I think that if you really love something, you put yourself into it. You might as well commit yourself. So many things are available if you ask,” she says.

Yvette doesn't know what the future will hold.

For now, she spends her spare time memorizing lines and trying to keep on top of her medical duties. She is also writing a one-person play about chronic illness which she hopes to perform next year.

“I like to focus my energies. You never know what will come along. I'm trying to keep an open mind,” she says.


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