Doctors’ Diaries

For my movie review assignment I chose to watch the Doctors Diaries documentary. I chose it for two reasons. First, since it was one suggested in the course I decided to check it out and it looked interesting. I like documentaries on certain topics, and the following of medical students sounded really interesting to me. The other reason is because my sister just graduated medical school from Michigan State and is currently only a month into her residency. I thought it would be very interesting to see what she and her other colleagues have had to go through and what they will continue to have to endure. Watching the documentary has opened my eyes to situations she has surely encountered. The documentary itself follows the mostly medical, but also personal lives of seven medical students. It continues to follow them throughout medical school, internships, residency, and beyond. The closing of the documentary is 21 years after filming first began. It highlights not only the struggles and hardships faced by these seven individuals, but also the amazing moments that only a doctor could experience. The documentary has no agenda, it does not glorify or criticize the profession, it simply presents the doctor’s stories. It truly makes you appreciate and understand what doctors have to sacrifice, from long hours to marriages, all so they can take care of us.

The documentary presents ideas and topics that we have covered in class. Since the documentary focuses on American medical students going through an American medial school they were learning American medicine or biomedicine. The focus was on examining the body through physical exams, lab work, and treating the sick with pharmaceuticals or surgeries. This is far different from the idea of Cartesian duality that we learned about in week 3. Cartesian duality is basically the splitting of the body (material) and mind (immaterial). Descartes’ is the founder of the concept of Cartesian duality; he thought the body and mind were two completely different substances that interacted with each other (Gabriel-Lecture 3.1). What he have talked about in class is that how in the western world we focus on the body aspect when trying to diagnose and treat illness. We have also discussed how other cultures focus on connecting the spirit and body when attempting to treat the sick. They use an integrated or holistic approach to treatment (Gabriel-Lecture3.1). An example of this approach is the healing dance performed by the Ju ‘hoansi. They do use a quasi-western medicine approach by using herbs and other things to treat the sick replacing medicine, but the main focus is on the dancing where the healers get their powers. This concept is obviously not seen directly in the documentary because its absence from it is how it relates to what we have learned. The documentary shows exactly what we have talked about in several weeks of this course. Western medicines focus is solely on the biological side and lacks any traditional aspects, sometimes to a fault.

Another topic from class that was present in the documentary was subtler. It occurred at the very end and actually had little to do with medicine itself. The topic presented related to structural violence. As we learned in class structural violence is social arrangements that put others into harms way, structural because they are embedded in our societies economical and political organizations, and violent because they cause harm to other people (Gabriel-Lecture 5.1). This topic is shown at the end of the documentary when checking up on Cheryl’s life. Cheryl made the decision to leave practicing medicine to become the president of a non-profit called Echoing Green. She was frustrated with repeatedly treating the same patients for injuries that she believed were caused by their surroundings. She thought she would be able to create more change in her patient’s lives by working to fix broken education systems or socioeconomic systems rather than treating an injury in a hospital. This was very interesting to me because I did not expect to have the topic of structural violence appear in a documentary of medical students lives. In class we discussed how structural violence can affect the spread of infectious disease in various countries, whereas in the documentary they were speaking about how certain communities were more prone to violence. Even though they were comparing different aspects of structural violence it is easy to see how this relates to what we covered in class.

I do think that this documentary would be a good addition to this class. I say this because obviously it presents topics and ideas that we have covered in class. Therefore, it could be used as another way to get you thinking about the material, as this assignment has done. Besides the fact that it relates to class another reason I think it would be good for class is simply because I thought it was a great documentary. It was a very honest documentary that had no agenda or Hollywood style, yet still had moments of joy and sadness and I also found it to be inspirational as well.



IsaacDLovesChrist. “Doctors’ Diaries (2009) 1 of 2 – Owned by PBS NOVA.” YouTube. 2013. Accessed August 14, 2016.

Gabriel, Cynthia. “Cartesian Duality, Biomedicine, and.” ANP 370 Culture Health and Illness. 2015. Accessed August 14, 2016.

Gabriel, Cynthia. “Critical Medical Anthropological Theory.” ANP 370 Culture Health and Illness. 2015. Accessed August 15, 2016.

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