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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 2, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 28
ABC Once More Turns Its Lens on JHM

In the emergency room at Bayview Medical Center, cameraman Alex Braverman trails Charles "Charlie" Brown IV, a second-year resident.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

A new series, filming now, is expected to air in summer '08

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The dramas that play themselves out daily at a world-famous medical institution will once again be depicted on the small screen.

ABC News has returned to Johns Hopkins.

In 1999, the network's news division was granted nearly unfettered access to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The result was an award-winning, six-part documentary, Hopkins 24/7, which aired in 2000 and drew nearly 12 million viewers in its prime-time slot.

The as-yet-unnamed new series, which will air sometime in the summer of 2008, will, like its predecessor, be shot cinema verite-style as film crews follow the doctors, nurses, students and patients involved in gripping life-and-death stories.

The crews began filming in mid-February and will likely wrap up shooting sometime in June, according to the series' producers.

In a nod to popular hospital-based TV dramas such as Grey's Anatomy, the new series will partly focus on younger residents and interns in an attempt to portray the real-life mentoring process in a clinical setting.

"No one becomes a Hopkins physician just by graduating from medical school," said Joann Rodgers, director of media relations and public affairs for Johns Hopkins Medicine. "The process of internship and residency is how doctors get made, whether it's at Hopkins or anywhere else. We think ABC will do a great job of capturing that in this new series."

ABC producers said that Johns Hopkins' senior staff and surgeons will also be portrayed and that they are leaving the door open for "cameos" by the medical staff featured in Hopkins 24/7.

Terry Wrong, the show's executive producer, said that ABC News decided to shoot another hospital documentary because it has an entire new generation of viewers to cater to, and the public's interest in medical dramas remains incredibly high.

He said that Johns Hopkins is an ideal location for such a program due to its wealth of "great doctors and cases" that lend themselves to good storytelling.

What will the viewers see this time? Wrong said that it's too early to tell what will make the final cut, but he promises lots of compelling stories.

"I'm calling it a documedical," Wrong said. "It's a documentary with all the drama of medical stories."

Wrong said that unlike medical documentaries seen on Discovery Health or PBS' Nova, for example, this series will include less "science speak" and is aimed more at people who are the patient base. "We're trying to reach the 25-year-old oil-field worker in Wyoming," he said.

The majority of filming will be done at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Bayview Medical Center, but camera crews will also follow Hopkins caregivers and students at work in the field and capture them during candid moments at home.

Rodgers said that the key motivation for allowing cameras into Johns Hopkins' patient floors, surgery rooms and laboratories remains the same as it was seven years ago — to help the public better understand the world of health care and an academic medical institution. Specifically, a documentary like this, she said, can help shine light on such issues as the rising cost of health care, clinical care and research, and patient safety.

"We are a big, complicated institution. Our goal is to give people an inside view and show what really goes on here," Rodgers said.

The decision to let cameras in was easier than might be expected, Rodgers said, because of the strong level of trust between ABC and Johns Hopkins.

"They have a proven track record of producing in-depth documentaries that are both fair and comprehensive," she said. "We thought the benefits to both Johns Hopkins and the viewers would be significant, and that we can manage any risks associated with allowing such unrestrained and wide access."


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