Emory residents featured in CNN documentary
How difficult is it for medical residents to work inconceivable hours, make life-and-death decisions, and maintain a home life?
CNN decided to find out by filming Special Investigations Unit—Grady’s Anatomy, a documentary modeled after the ABC hit show Grey’s Anatomy.
A camera crew shadowed four medical residents, three of them from Emory, as they put in shifts at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. Grady was chosen not just for its name (although that was a happy coincidence) but because it is a Level 1 trauma center and training ground for the next generation of physicians.
“The experience was exciting and scary,” says first-year resident Robin Lowman. “I always make sure my patient is getting the best care, but it is a little nerve-racking when cameras are watching every move you make.”
Grady’s Anatomy, which aired for the first time in late March but will be repeated, features Lowman, first-year Emory resident Andrea Meinerz, and fifth-year neurosurgery resident Luis Tumialán. First-year general surgery intern Nii-Daako Darko of Morehouse School of Medicine is the fourth resident profiled. Emory neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, a CNN medical correspondent and Tumialán’s attending physician, makes on-camera appearances as well.
Nearly four hundred full-time Emory residents train at Grady. “Viewers of this ‘real’ versus ‘reel’ program will have a first-hand look at how excellent doctors are made,” says Thomas Lawley, dean of Emory’s School of Medicine.
Videographers and producers spent three weeks following the residents, day and night. They were filmed performing surgeries, caring for patients, dealing with emergencies, and relaxing during their rare free time.
Lowman, who grew up shadowing her father while he made his hospital rounds, comes from a medical family (both her older sisters are physicians as well), but she once thought her talents were best suited for the stage. “I moved to New York to sing and did have a chance to star in an off-Broadway musical. I will never give up singing, writing music, and dancing,” says Lowman. “But medicine and helping people are parts of me as well. I don’t think I have to be stuck in a box. I can explore and enjoy whatever my heart leads me to.”
Tumialán, a special operations diving medical officer on leave to finish his residency, said in the beginning of filming he found himself overly conscientious in front of the cameras.
“I wanted to make the perfect statement regarding a clinical case or a radiograph,” said Tumialán, who is a new father as well as chief resident. “But then I realized that this wasn’t what this documentary intended to capture. I am a resident, a neurosurgeon in training. I am going to miss something on a study or not know an answer altogether. That’s reality. That’s residency.”
In one of the documentary’s most touching scenes, the cameras follow him home. “Just five minutes of playing with my son puts everything into perspective,” he says. “The hardest thing is to go days without seeing him awake. But unlike being in the military and on deployment, at least I can come home and place my hand on the back of a sleeping baby.”
Meinerz, who plans to specialize in neurology, enjoys bird watching and playing poker when she’s off duty. A self-described ham, Meinerz said it was fun to have “an entourage—the crew members were a riot!”
Although Grady can be a frustrating, frenetic place to work, she said, “I have really learned to treasure my time there. The patients tend to view us as their personal doctors, and they value our opinions. That means a lot to me as an intern.”—M.J.L.