How Medical Movies can make you a better Doctor!

“You are a medical student, when you feel guilty ,that you spent the whole day without opening your books.” 

 I think that’s the situation for most of us out there, especially during this quarantine. So I’ve come up with a way to “chill and study”, therefore we don’t go to bed with any regrets. Let me explain to you how you can watch medical movies and learn from them and still enjoy your time without any guilt.

I love to watch movies,and will never get tired of it. For me movies are like tranquilizers (A tranquilizer refers to a drug which is designed for the treatment of anxiety, fear, tension, agitation, and disturbances of the mind, specifically to reduce states of anxiety and tension. ). 

We can learn a lot from movies. How different the world is across the globe, what’s happening around , what kind of people are around us etc. 

We can also learn  medical related knowledge from the movies we watch too. I also feel we learn better with visual knowledge and when a good story is tied to it. Thats also why i feel sometimes doctors remeber a particular case because of the patient experience they’ve had before.

I’ve chosen 4 movies from different genres ( so you can watch according to your mood) that I feel are must watch movies for doctors  and explained the medical related information from the movie, so you can just go through this article after watching the movie and you are good to go.  

MEDICAL FILMS EXPLAINED IN THIS ARTICLE:

1. Dallas buyers club 

Genre : drama/history

IMDb- 8/10

2. A walk to remember

Genre : romance 

IMDb-7.4/10

3. Coma

Genre : thriller  

IMDb-6.9/10

4. Patch Adams 

Genre : comedy 

IMDb- 6.8/10

 *** SPOILERS ALERT***

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

  • Release : 2013
  • Genre : Drama, history 
  • IMDb- 8
  • CAST: Mathew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn

. It is a must watch movie for everyone out there The actors have taken a lot of strains and did justice to their roles. 

It’s a true story about Ron Woodroof, who was diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980’s from Dallas, Texas, USA.

The film brings about how he reacts to his diagnosis and how far he is willing to go to fight the deadly virus by taking in part of a medical trial for the drug called Zidovidine (AZT). But learns the serious side effects of the drug and eventually gets kicked out of the trial.

We also come across the sad reality of how medical pharmaceutical  companies push drugs into the market even if it’s not that effective and has serious side effects.

He comes across a drug (peptide t along with other supplements) in Mexico, which is illegal in his country but seems effective for treatment against HIV virus.

How he manages to bring in the drug from Mexico and how eventually becomes a well-established distributor of the drug, is the story.

AIDS- ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME (“slim disease”)

It’s a condition caused by a virus known as HIV- human immunodeficiency virus. It is a very notorious virus, that causes the death of the individual eventually as it strongly attacks their immune system.

What’s special about it?

  • If once contracted cannot be totally cured from it, can only manage and keep the patient symptoms free
  • There is no vaccine available for HIV
  • It was recognized as an emerging disease only in the late 1980’s and still have lots of studies going on to know more about it
  • India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:

There are different stages of the infection which have different signs of presentation.

Most common signs in adults include:

 weight loss ( > 10 % of body weight), chronic diarrhoea(more than 1 month) , prolonged fever(more than 1 month), persistent cough for more than 1 month , generalized lymphadenopathy,  presence of other infections like oropharyngeal candidiasis, herpes zoster or herpes simplex infection.

Presence of Kaposi sarcoma, cryptococcal meningitis is a high indicator for the probable presence of HIV infection.

In children it’s the similar signs can be noted. Confirmed HIV infection in the mother counts as a minor criterion. 

CAUSES:

The main mode of infection is via Sexual activity. Its also known to spread via Blood contact (intravenous drug usage) and Maternal – foetal transmission (mother to child transmission)

The virus is found to be in greatest concentration in blood, semen and CSF(Cerebrospinal fluid)

Its found in lower concentration in tears, saliva , breast milk, urine , cervical and vaginal secretions.

LAB DIAGNOSIS:

CBC, HIV viral load tests, Absolute CD4 Lymphocyte count, p24 antigen,

ELISA , Western blot (CONFIRMATORY TEST)

TREATMENT:

There are extensive combination of drugs used in the treatment of HIV according to the different stages of infection.

The drugs come under the classification of Antiretroviral drugs.

  1. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors ( Zidovudine- from the movie )
  2. Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors
  3. Non- nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors
  4. Protease inhibitors
  5. Intergrase strand transfer inhibitors

A WALK TO REMEMBER

  • Release : 2002
  • Genre : Romance
  • IMDb : 7.4/10
  • Cast : Mandy Moore, Shane West, Daryl Hannah

The film is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks novel in the same name released on 1999.

It’s a sad ending romantic story of high school sweethearts Landon and Jamie. Landon being the stud and Jamie being the good girl of the school. They are posted as the lead actors in their high school play. Jamie helps Landon with his lines. They eventually fall in love.

In the middle of the movie we find out that Jamie has Leukaemia and is not responding to treatment. And the movie goes about how Landon tries his best to make Jamie comfortable during her last days from making a telescope to marrying her.

At the end they marry and she dies and Landon joins medical school and still in so love with Jamie that the story ends by saying “ their love is like the wind: he cant see it , but can feel it”

LEUKEMIA

Also known as blood cancer, due to the abnormal growth of blood cells. There are 4 main types of leukemias – ALL, AML,CLL,CML.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Bleeding, bruising, feeling tired, fever , increased risk of infections

(These are due to the presence of large number of abnormal blood cells)

CAUSES:

Exact causes are unknown

Combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role.

Smoking, radiation exposure, carcinogenic chemicals, prior chemotherapy, downs syndrome, people with family history etc.

LAB DIAGNOSIS:

Blood tests and bone marrow biopsy

TREATMENT:

Treatment varies from the stage of cancer.

Might involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therpay,  bone marrow transplant, supportive care and palliative care as needed.

COMA

  • Release : 1978
  • Genre: mystery thriller
  • IMDb: 6.9/10
  • Cast: Genevieve Bujold, Michael Douglas, Elizebrth Ashely

The movie is based one of the first books( coma-1977) by the famous Medical thriller novelist Robin cook.

The story revolves around a medical student named Susan Wheeler, encounters  the mysterious coma induced in otherwise normal patients who undergo minor procedures in the same operation theatre and how she discovers the black market organ sales. it turns out these patients were poisoned by carbon monoxide and sold to the highest bidder for organs.

The story also helps us understand the nature in which female medical students were welcomed in those times.

CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING / CO POISONING

It’s a colourless , odourless and tasteless gas that kill you in dangerous levels.

Its affinity to haemoglobin is much higher than oxygen making less space for oxygen in blood.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:

 Headache dizziness , weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain , confusion.

Its said to have “flu like” symptoms.

CAUSES:

Exhaust from automobiles is the main source.

Elderly , anemic patients with co morbities are at higher risk.

People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they can have symptoms.

LAB DIAGNOSIS :

Check for arterial blood gas and parameters of carboxyhemoglobin.

TREATMENT:

 Remove the source of CO immediately and get them into fresh air, and should go to the hospital immediately.

Breathing pure oxygen and being inside pressured oxygen chambers can be involved in the treatment.

PATCH ADAMS

  • Release :1998
  • Genre : comedy
  • IMDb: 6.8/10
  • Cast : Robin Williams , Monica potter, Phillip Seymour Hoffman 

The movie is based on Hunter Doherty Adams also known famously as Patch Adams.

He is an American physician, comedian, social activist, clown and author. He is also one of  the founders of the Gesundheit! ( in German meaning health)  institute.

The movies revolves around how Patch believes in alternative medicines like using humour and human compassion to treat patients. This movie shows how he fights the medical community on their monotonous practicing methods and why he believes against it.

Its one of the all time inspirational movies for doctors.The lesson I learnt from this movie is :

“HOW TO BE A DOCTOR?”

In a world where we are going behind the speciality that gets us more money or is a “safe” option for us , Patch Adams teaches us to first remember why we joined this course in the first place – to treat and give our best to patients.

The unique way in which he approaches the treatment of the patient was really interesting.

 The way he saw them as human beings rather than just another patient in another bed with other disease.

I feel like these are important lessons a doctor must know and always be reminded of.

Hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know how you feel about this in the comments below.If you have any movies or series suggestions that you’d like me to write an article on , do let me know

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