Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

Category: Film

Prism Awards spotlight addiction, mental health

April 23, 2010 |  3:25 pm

No industry likes to give itself accolades more than Hollywood, but an award ceremony last night was a little different. The Prism Awards honored actors, television shows and movies that honestly portray depictions of mental health issues and addiction, plus tobacco, drug and alcohol use.

L1b8pjnc Among the winners were Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal, stars of the film "Crazy Heart," Hector Elizondo and Tony Shalhoub for the TV show "Monk," and the film "The Soloist." Television shows singled out included "How I Met Your Mother," "Breaking Bad" and "The Celebrity Apprentice." You can read more about the winners in the Envelope. The awards are produced by the Entertainment Industries Council Inc. in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the FX Network. The awards took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

"The Prism Awards recognizes and applauds the remarkable efforts that have been contributed by our creative community," said EIC's President and Chief Executive Brian Dyak, in a news release. "We salute those in the entertainment industry that promote informational truths in their work to improve the lives of the audiences they entertain. Through accurate character portrayals and inspired storytelling, our industry reinforces the importance of those individuals within the care giving and health fields."

Considering how often Hollywood is criticized for its portrayal of issues such as substance abuse and mental health, no doubt the celebs, producers, etc. welcomed this bit of good publicity.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Lorey Sebastian / Associated Press

'Men in White,' the original medical drama

December 3, 2009 |  8:00 am

If you’ve ever been hooked on a hospital-centered drama like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “ER” or “St. Elsewhere,” you can thank a 1933 Broadway play called “Men in White.”

The drama took theatergoers inside the operating room for the first time, and a quick scan of the TV listings confirms that modern-day viewers have no intention of leaving. Two new medical shows – “Mercy” and “Three Rivers” – premiered this fall alone.

Greys “Men in White” centered on a surgical trainee named George Ferguson whose personal life gives way to the constant demands of caring for patients at a busy urban hospital. After his fed-up fiancée breaks up with him, a dalliance with a nursing student ends in tragedy. But it provides an opportunity for the fiancée to appreciate the life-and-death work that has become George’s calling.

One of the play’s most enduring scenes featured an elaborately choreographed pantomime of surgeons wielding their scalpels in the OR. George’s mentor, Dr. Hochberg, gets the proceedings off to a quick start with a single, forceful command: “Scalpel.”

“Today, the scene would elicit yawns from seasoned couch potatoes and medical drama buffs who have been entertained by such surgical derring-do for decades,” writes Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine in an essay published in this week’s issue of Journal of the American Medical Assn. “But in 1933, this stunning scene made theatrical history as it introduced large audiences to a sanctum sanctorum once accessible only to surgeons and nurses.”

“Men in White” was so successful that William Randolph Hearst ordered a film version, starring Clark Gable as George and Myrna Loy as his fiancée Laura. The MGM release hit theaters in 1934.

But today, the play is “rarely read, viewed, or performed,” Markel writes. “Adding insult to injury, a crude parody is far better recalled than the original.”

He refers to a Three Stooges spoof called “Men in Black” that finds Curly, Larry and Moe doing battle with a hospital public address system. Though it was nominated for an Oscar in 1934 for best short comedy film, Markel says, “surely the literary legacy of ‘Men in White’ deserves better than manipulation and ridicule by the Three Stooges.”

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” can trace their ancestry to the 1933 Broadway production “Men in White.” Credit: Scott Garfield / ABC

Swine flu: Parents not flocking toward H1N1 flu vaccinations for their kids

September 24, 2009 |  4:09 pm

Germ-spreading school children are expected to be the focus of a massive U.S. vaccination campaign against the novel H1N1 flu. But if their parents are hearing the sounding of the tocsin at all, they're not buying it, says a new national survey.

A poll conducted by the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found that only 4 in 10 parents said they would get their children immunized against the H1N1 virus--even as 54% indicated they will get their kids vaccinated against regular seasonal flu. Among those that said they do not intend to have their kids vaccinated against H1N1, almost half--46% indicated they're not worried about their child becoming ill with the pandemic virus. One in five told surveyers they do not believe the H1N1 flu is serious.

Skepticism about the new vaccine among parents has drawn on many old, and a few new fears, according to a recent look at the subject in The Times.

There were differences along racial and ethnic groups in parents' responses. More than half of Latino parents said they will bring their kids to get vaccinated against H1N1. Among white parents, 38% said they would do so. African American parents were least inclined to vaccinate: 30% said they planned to do so.

About half of the parents who planned to take a pass on the H1N1 flu shot for their kids expressed concern about possible side effects of the vaccine.

The chatter about seasonal flu and novel H1N1 flu and their relative virulence has certainly confused parents, the survey suggests. Half of respondents said they believe that, for children, seasonal and H1N1 flu pose roughly equivalent risks.

"That perception may not match the actual risks," says Dr. Matthew Davis, a University of Michigan professor of pediatrics and internal medicine and director of the poll. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that while serious complications of seasonal flu appear to spare most kids and strike the elderly and very young most heavily, the novel H1N1 flu appears to hit children and young adults hardest.

Parents who believe that H1N1 flu will be worse for children were most likely to say they will have their own children vaccinated. In a news release accompanying the poll results, Davis said that public health officials wishing to maximize vaccination rates among school children need to communicate clearly to their parents that kids are at relatively greater risk of becoming seriously ill with the novel flu strain if they get it.

-- Melissa Healy

Film: 'Chasing Rainbows' looks at young people living with cancer

August 4, 2009 | 11:04 am

In this 43-minute documentary, six young people (ages 19 to 29) sit down to talk about the reality of living with cancer. They talk about the practical: How best to shave a head, how to make friends with chemo, how to find hope in little things. The emotional: How angry they were when they learned of their diagnosis, how likely they are to live, the will to live for a boyfriend. The difficult: Losing hair, losing sex drive, and wondering about the future.

Upbeat in tone, the film has the ability to provide hope and inspiration to those battling similar conditions, in that all of the cancer patients who are being filmed talk about rising above their circumstances.

It was created by Sara Taylor Gibson (who appears on screen) and completed by director Pat Taylor (Sara’s mother), who finished the film on behalf of her daughter.

They made the film because when Sara was diagnosed with cancer at age 23, she could not find any information directed specifically toward people her age who were living with cancer. Sara died on July 17, 2000.

The documentary screens at the Regency Theater in West Hollywood on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 4:50 p.m., as part of the West Hollywood International Film Festival.

Visit the film’s website at:

-- Lori Kozlowski

Photo credit: Chasing Rainbows Productions

Update: The venue for the screening of this film has changed. The film will now be screened at the Roosevelt Hotel on 7000 Hollywood Blvd. The date and time remain Thursday, Aug. 6 at 4:50 p.m.

Not your usual night at the movies

April 14, 2009 |  5:37 pm

Most of us go to the movies to escape from reality, but there are a few film buffs who go to stare reality right in the face.

Uos-Mandy_Hughes_01Those people might like this trio of new health-related documentaries that probably rate low on the fun meter, but pack a wallop in the information department. You may want to hold the popcorn, though.

First up is "Food, Inc.," an expose of the food industry, to wit: "exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of e coli -- the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually."

In other words, give us spots on our apples, but leave us the birds and the bees. Please. This is out in L.A. on June 12.

Next comes "Under Our Skin," a film about Lyme disease. The news release describes it as "A dramatic tale of microbes, medicine and money, this eye-opening film investigates the untold story of Lyme disease, an emerging epidemic larger than AIDS." The story chronicles the history of the disease, profiles those who have it, and delves into how the healthcare system is handling it (we'll guess the filmmakers think not very well). The film debuts June 26 in Los Angeles.

Finally, there is "My Mother’s Garden," which some may have already seen, since it debuted on MSNBC a couple of weeks ago (but will likely be shown again). This recounts the story of Eugenia Lester, a 61-year-old Granada Hills woman with a hoarding disorder so massive and disruptive that it threatens her life. Lester’s daughter Cynthia captured the tale on film, revealing her mental illness as the family finds ways to deal with it.

OK, not exactly the stuff of blockbusters, but probably more intellectually enriching than, say, "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

-- Jeannine Stein

A still from the film "Under Our Skin" shows Sean Cobb tending to his wife, Mandy Hughes, during a seizure.


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