Ryan McGarry Visits CRMTH

On Tuesday May 24th, CRMTH had the honor of welcoming Dr. Ryan McGarry to speak at Scaife Hall.  Ryan McGarry is an emergency medicine physician and filmmaker. In addition to being on faculty at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York City, he is also co-creator and executive producer of the medical drama Code Black on CBS.

Dr. McGarry attended Penn State University for his undergraduate degree, and decided to pursue a career in medicine after successfully battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 19.  While attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine he did an away rotation in the Los Angeles County Emergency Department, and was so captivated by this experience that he asked the University for permission to extend his rotation and capture some of the experience on film. This effort ultimately resulted in his breakthrough documentary Code Black, which captures the true reality of the Los Angeles County Hospital’s Emergency Department. The documentary catalogues the department’s transition to a new hospital with new regulations, offers a fresh take on America’s healthcare system, and documents the challenges the doctors face as they attempt to help and save as many people as possible with limited resources McGarry states that he, “had no intentions of coming to LA to make a film,” but the resulting documentary was truly a success, receiving both national and international recognition.

When Dr. McGarry spoke at Scaife, his presentation focused on the evolution of medical dramas through the years.  He discussed how in the 1960’s doctors were portrayed as older and more authoritarian, and the American Medical Association actually lobbied these programs to make sure that doctors were portrayed in a positive light. Today, most medical dramas focus on younger doctors with elements of soap opera often present to capture viewers. Furthermore, on today’s medical dramas physicians are shown as fallible, often making mistakes that cost patients their lives. However, even with these changes, 69% of Americans still rate the honesty and ethical standards of physicians as high or very high.  As Dr. McGarry said, “Things have changed as far as medical dramas go.  But still, of all genres, the most popular thing that Americans watch in primetime is medical dramas.”  Dr. McGarry ended his presentation by noting that medical professionals need to take advantage of the popularity of medical dramas by using them as a vehicle to engage the public and educate them on important public health issues. He emphasized the need for medical professionals to reach out and use new and emerging forms of communication, such as blogs and podcasts, to reach the public and provide them with positive public health education. To get a more in-depth explanation of Dr. Ryan McGarry’s observations, please refer to the video below.



Our partners at UPMC have provided additional background on the event.