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Giving back and having fun: Sorority-sponsored variety show raises funds for a good cause

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Most interactions with doctors and nurses are serious in nature. Rarely, if ever, do you get to witness your pediatrician recite a poem or your RN deliver a dazzling dance performance. A number of medical professionals in the city, however, find joy in showing off their hidden talents, a “flip side” to their workplace persona. 

For more than 30 years, the Eta Chi Chapter of Chi Eta Phi Sorority Inc. has hosted Flip Side, a variety show that raises scholarship funds for deserving students pursuing careers in the medical field. To date, the organization of health care professionals and medical students has raised a quarter of a million dollars and helped more than 200 students. 

Tiffany Johnson, the show’s producer and director, said attendees can expect to hear poetry, singing, comedy and see dance numbers from the talented group of health care providers.

“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “It’s a good time and a rare occasion where we can celebrate culture, excellence, the spirit of giving and fellowship. … It’s just a feel-good evening out. People come year after year looking forward to this long-standing tradition.”

This year’s Flip Side will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, at the historic Madame Walker Theatre, 617 Indiana Ave. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under. All proceeds will go to scholarship funding, and five students will be recognized this year. 

Dr. Ukamaka Oruche, a two-time award recipient, said the funds she received as an undergrad and graduate student were extremely helpful. “(The scholarship) made a difference. The monies were substantial enough to where I didn’t have to work extra hours and I could purchase books that I needed,” she said.

Oruche said she always knew a career in the medical field was for her, and she found her calling in mental health due in no small part to the support and positive reinforcement she received from the members of Chi Eta Phi. Today, she is an assistant professor of psychiatric-mental health nursing at the Indiana University School of Nursing and gives back by mentoring students of color and giving financial contributions to the same organization that helped her. 

“I feel like it is very important for those who have been blessed to give back in this way for several reasons, one being that every person needs cheerleaders irrespective of how much resources you have,” Oruche said. “For African-Americans and ethnic minorities in general, we tend to face more challenges. … When you’re facing added challenges, you need people who can support you and mentor you so that you don’t doubt and you stay on course to be successful.”

Loraine Ruggs, who is also a two-time award recipient, said she, too, has been positively impacted by the women of Chi Eta Phi. Ruggs attended nursing school as a non-traditional student, juggling coursework, her marriage and four children simultaneously.

“It’s a tall order to weather it financially,” she said of her balancing act. “I had to stop working. I had to choose between being successful in nursing school and really making ends meet at a comfortable level.” The scholarships she received helped fill in gaps not met by financial aid for things like books, uniforms, supplementary materials during clinicals, and gas money to get back and forth between classes.

Ruggs joined the Chi Eta Phi sisterhood in 1999, and today she serves as scholarship chair for the annual event. “I look at it as it’s my responsibility to give back, and this is just one of the ways,” she said. “People should support (Flip Side) because they will be directly helping a student finish nursing school. Even buying one ticket will help in a big way.” 

Tickets to Flip Side can be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting Marlene Lamberg at (317) 547-9943.

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