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'Doctors of Tomorrow': PBS features Hofstra prominently in medical documentaries

Medical students examine a cadaver at Hofstra North

Medical students examine a cadaver at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, in the PBS documentary "Doctors of Tomorrow." Credit: Courtesy of David Grubin Productions

THE DOCUMENTARIES "RX: The Quiet Revolution" and "Doctors of Tomorrow"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night, 8-9:30 p.m. and 9:30-10 p.m., respectively, on WNET/13

In these two documentaries, David Grubin, the veteran public-television producer ("American Experience," "The Jewish Americans"), explores a new development in patient care treatment that emphasizes what the films say is a novel approach: listening to the patient. In "Revolution," Grubin talks to four health-care professionals across the country, but "Doctors of Tomorrow" focuses on Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine in Hempstead -- which graduated its first class in May. The school, as the film explains, "emphasizes the rapport between doctor and patient." Both films are highly personal -- Grubin compares and contrasts the new approach with that of his father, who was a doctor in Hillside, New Jersey.

I spoke with Grubin last week:

Why did you choose to focus on Hofstra-LIJ?

They epitomize the values we wanted to get across in the film, of this new kind of medicine, where doctors are being trained to listen to patients.

But isn't it common sense that doctors should learn bedside manners, so to speak?

When my father went to school, it was all memorization, and you still have schools. The thing about Hofstra, which is new, is that it is new -- there is no past, nothing that's left over, or some idea that the teacher needs to get up and lecture like the "sage on the stage," as it's called. They don't have any teachers who still want to do that, so the philosophy in the school is consistent, and everyone is on board with the idea of listening to the patient and getting students out in the field. The dean told me, "You don't learn to hit a baseball by studying physics," and medicine is the same way.

There's a moment in the Hofstra film where students become very emotional discussing their first encounter with a cadaver. Surprising to you?

When my father studied, he did it with a stiff upper lip -- the cadavers were face down. At Hofstra, you see it as if this is your first patient, then you write about it, and you can see how much emotion is there. [But] you have to learn how to handle that emotion and also be detached from it to be a doctor, and they're on to that at Hofstra.

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