New Amsterdam: Sign Language Enters the Operating Room

Starting with season 4 of New Amsterdam, a deaf actress will join the cast of this popular television series: Sandra Mae Frank. This season premieres on September 21 in the United States and is expected to premiere later in other countries. Here we will review other appearances of deaf people in the series and even discover the advantages that sign language has in the operating room in the words of the medical specialists themselves.

Image of actor Ryan Eggold in white coat and blue jumpsuit, New Amsterdam lettering and image of deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank with half auburn hair and navy blue tank top

Sandra Mae Frank

She earned a Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree from Gallaudet University in the United States and made her theatrical debut in the play Spring Awakening, presented on New York's famous Broadway by the Deaf West Theatre group, for which she received an Ovation Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical (the Deaf West Theatre group, founded in 1991 by Deaf people, has received more than 140 theater award nominations and won more than 60 awards, which gives an idea of its high level).

Sandra Mae Frank signing in the Spring Awakening play in a nightgown. Next to her is an older woman with a sad expression and a letter in her hand
Sandra Mae Frank (left) in her performance in the Broadway play Spring Awakening (photo: Joan Marcus).

Sandra defines herself as queer and is committed to the cause of the queer Deaf community. In the following video she explains how she felt when she finally completed her identity (in American Sign Language and English subtitles):


In the fourth season of New Amsterdam, the actress plays the role of one of the few Deaf surgeons in New York and one of the best surgeons. Max tries to recruit her for his hospital but she will refuse, at least at first, according to different media reports. At the time of publishing this article, prior to the premiere of the fourth season, it is not yet known if Sandra will play a neurosurgeon or cardiovascular surgeon but it is known that she will be a recurring character in the series.

You can follow Sandra Mae Frank on social media:


Other Deaf People in New Amsterdam

We previously had the pleasure of seeing Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff starring in one of the many stories that happen at the hospital, specifically in episode 19 of season 1. Lauren is well known lately for appearing in over 50 episodes of The Walking Dead series and for her appearance in Marvel's upcoming blockbuster Eternals, although she broke out already in 2018 with her nomination for Best Actress at the prestigious Tony Awards for Drama.

Lauren Ridloff sits looking straight ahead with a pensive expression and curly brown hair. In the background, a doctor in a white coat is typing on a computer.
Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff during one of the episodes of New Amsterdam (photo: © Virginia Sherwood/NBC).

In addition, Deaf actor John P. McGinty appears very sporadically and almost by surprise during a brief scene in spisode 3, season 3, supposedly playing a doctor, as he is wearing a white coat. John is a veteran actor who jumped into the media mainly because in 2017 he was the first real-life Deaf person to play the character of Quasimodo. The actor himself uploaded a photo of the New Amsterdam scene to his Facebook page:

Deaf actor John McGinty is signing, has long brown hair, wears a tie and white doctor's coat. The caption reads, "for saying what we've all been feeling."
Deaf actor John McGinty in episode 3 of season 3 in New Amsterdam

Advantages of Sign Language in the Operating Room

Researchers at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in India published a paper in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine in which they argue for the benefits of Sign Language in emergency departments and operating rooms:

  • Emergency departments can be noisy environments, so sign language facilitates communication and reduces noise.
  • Knowledge of certain gestures can reassure families when communicating bad news.
  • They avoid distractions inside operating rooms.
  • They allow healthcare professionals to 'convey their messages without tiresome efforts of speaking through n95 face masks inside Covid-19 isolation wards'.

For all these reasons, these researchers suggest that health professionals should be motivated and trained in their knowledge.

Perhaps the team of scriptwriters of the series New Amsterdam had knowledge of these practices, added to the previous good experience of working with deaf actors and actresses. In any case, we are sure that sign language in this television fiction will give a lot of play.


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