Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

15 Great Films Every Med Student Should See (and Perhaps the rest of us!)

This is from a December 9th MD Master’s Degree posting (Thank you Karen for the message about this)

When you’re stuck in the endless cycle of class, study groups and rounds, it might seem like you’ll never graduate and become a fully licensed physician. That’s why it’s important to take a step back from the books and refresh your perspective on medicine, health care, and the difference you’ll make through your research and patient care. Here are 15 great films that will recharge your motivation and passion for the profession.

Article 99: This 1992 movie, named after an article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that refers to “misbehavior before the enemy,” like cowardly conduct or abandoning command — follows a tragically common ailment that still plagues today’s health care system, the inability of veterans’ hospitals to care for all of its patients. An impressive cast including Jeffrey Tambor, Ray Liotta, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Lea Thompson, John C. McGinley and John Mahoney round out the story of doctors at a VA hospital who decide to make their own rules when bureaucracy threatens to shut them down.

The Race for the Double Helix: Jeff Goldblum, Tim Pigott-Smith and Juliet Stevenson star in this film about the race to crack the mystery behind DNA. Based on the true story of two competing groups of scientists from two universities — Francis Crick and James D. Watson from Cambridge University and Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin from King’s College London — it’s a film that any medical student or doctor interested in research, discovery, and the thrill of making new advancements in medicine.

People Will Talk: Oscar-winning director Joseph Mankiewicz created this 1951 comedy that’s also a heavy commentary on society and the way we understand health care. The film stars Cary Grant as a gynecologist who gets involved with an unmarried pregnant patient, played by Jeanne Crain. But besides the romance, the movie involves a McCarthy-esque investigation into Grant’s Dr. Praetorius and raises some interesting questions about medical ethics and the profession.

And the Band Played On: During a time when AIDS barely started to get the attention it deserved, this film, based on the book by the same name and directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Matthew Modine, Alan Alda and Patrick Bauchau, tackles the nasty fight between scientists, doctors and politicians over treatment of the disease. It’s an important movie for doctors treating AIDS patients and anyone who wants a look into the history of the relationship between American politics, society and health care.

Awakenings: Penny Marshall directed this 1990 film — also based on a book — about nurses in the mental ward at a hospital in the Bronx. The book, by Dr. Oliver Sacks, is based on true stories of his World War I-era patients who fall into a sleep sickness, effectively causing them to sleep — or appear frozen — for decades. Dr. Sacks used an experimental drug to awaken his patients, and the film, starring Robert DeNiro, captures the creepy illness with grace and humor.

The Doctor: Directed by Randa Haines and starring William Hurt and Christine Lahti, this is a great film for patients and doctors who’ve come across seemingly harsh, uncaring physicians. Dr. Jack McKee — played by Hurt — is one such doctor who experiences a change of heart after becoming a patient himself. Wit: This film, starring Emma Thompson, is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson, which also won “Best New Play” from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle in 1999. John Donne expert and English lit professor Vivian Bearing — played by Thompson in the film — is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is subjected to crippling chemotherapy. Told partially through flashbacks, Bearing’s attempt to make sense of her disease and treatment is powerful, and based partly on Edson’s own experience working in a hospital to portray the day-to-day humility of tests and being poked and prodded by doctors, interns and students.

Malice: Called “deviously entertaining” by the New York Times, this movie, starring Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bebe Neuwirth, Bill Pullman and Nicole Kidman directed by Harold Becker and written by Aaron Sorkin, is actually a thriller about a doctor who saves a patient after being attacked by a rapist. It’s a story that involves murder, sexual assault, an illegal abortion, and a lot of other creepy stuff, but it’s fun, too, if you’re in the mood for a little mad doctor action.

Sicko: Whether you agree with Michael Moore’s propositions or wish he’d never picked up a camera, this movie raises a lot of questions about the crumbling health care system in America. It’s an important documentary for anyone who’s fed up with bureaucracy or who’s involved in health insurance claims or politics, and of course is an intriguing film for doctors who have a lot at stake — in good ways and bad — as the health care system is worked out. Something the Lord Made: This movie aired on HBO in 2004 and was subsequently nominated for two Golden Globes, two Emmys (it won one), and many other awards and recognitions. Starring Alan Rickman, Mos Def, Kyra Sedgwick, and Gabrielle Union, it follows the true story of an arrogant white cardiologist — Dr. Alfred Blalock — who brings with him to Johns Hopkins his young African American mechanic — Vivien Thomas — who also assists in surgeries. Together, the pair invented bypass surgery, but Thomas gets left out of the celebration.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Ken Kesey’s iconic 1962 novel was turned into an equally impressive film in 1975 starring Jack Nicholson as the rapist transferred to a mental hospital to serve part of his sentence. The film won five Academy Awards and is a chilling commentary on the harsh methods used to rehabilitate the mentally challenged. Also an enlightening movie for doctors and students wanting to learn more about the complex psychology behind doctor-patient relationships, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest tackles larger issues like health care institutions’ effect on personality, morality and sexuality.

John Q: It’s true that this film is a bit over the top in some respects, but the drama is all part of a very real, very troubled system. Denzel Washington plays a fed-up father of a son who is denied a heart transplant, and he takes over an ER — quite violently — in order to make his point. Starring other great actors like James Woods, Robert Duvall, Anne Heche and Ray Liotta, John Q is a good study on just how crazy and helpless insurance companies have made us. The Men: Fred Zinneman’s 1950 film starring Marlon Brando still poses relevant questions and issues about the way our society cares for wounded veterans. Brando plays an ex-GI who is paralyzed below the waist who struggles with isolation, depression, self-pity and rehabilitation as he is supported by his doctor and fiancee.

My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown: Daniel Day-Lewis plays Irishman Christy Brown — who was born with cerebral palsy — in this real-life drama directed by Jim Sheridan. Winner of two Academy Awards, the 1989 film is a moving story about the physical and social challenges that the disabled face. It’s also pretty awesome to see all the things Brown could do with his left foot.

Red Beard: This 1965 Japanese film, based on a Dostoevsky novel and a Shugoro Yamamoto short story collection, follows a young doctor — Noboru Yasumoto — whose life plan involves becoming the personal physician for the Shogunate but is first assigned to a rural clinic after medical school. He works under a strict clinic director and rebels because of his disgust at working at such a lowly place. But after getting to know his patients and becoming ill himself, Yasumoto revises his superficial notions about the profession.

December 10, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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