Hub ‘Med’

Gritty series gives inside look at three Boston hospitals

By Amy Amatangelo
Boston Herald
June 20, 2010

Buzz up!

Paging real-life medical drama to your TV set. Stat!

Three of Boston’s best hospitals – Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston – get prime-time exposure in the new series “Boston Med,” premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. on WCVB, Ch. 5.

For the eight-part series, executive producer Terence Wrong and his team spent four months and thousands of hours filming at the hospitals. Why were hospitals so willing to open their doors? “On a gut level, if you think you have an excellent institution and you think your doctors are among the best in the world, you should be proud of them and you should be confident enough to show that off,” Wrong said in a telephone interview from New York.

“The bottom line for us is it helps people across the country to see the kind of care that we provide,” said Bess Andrews, director of public affairs at Children’s Hospital. “It was a great way to show the public what their tax dollars actually support. I think the show will help people understand why pediatric care is more complicated, more expensive and just so much more resource intensive.”

The hospitals also had Wrong’s previous two series on Johns Hopkins Hospital, which aired on ABC in 2000 and 2008, to watch. “That series was a calling card when I came to Boston,” Wrong said. “That was a record to judge me on and it made a lot of difference. It was great confidence-inducing factor.”

The series provides intimate access to patients and their loved ones as they receive heartbreaking news, make difficult medical decisions and face life-threatening complications.

Patients profiled include a police officer who is shot in the face in the line of duty, a pregnant woman who knows her unborn child has a heart defect and a man in need of a heart transplant.

“Most people (agree to participate in the series) because it is kind of a light at the end of the tunnel for them,” Wrong said. “If you’re a patient, bad things happen to you and you’re basically helpless and at the mercy of your doctors and the nurses and so actually saying, ‘Yes I want to be in this series’ feels like a taking hold of a sort. It’s a way to be kind of proactive.”

By participating, patients also can become an example for others. “When you come to the hospital and you experience something, one of the things that you always want is that somebody else can benefit from whatever your experience is,” said Peggy Slasman, vice president of public affairs at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The doctors often come across as heroic, but the series also reveals that they are fallible and make mistakes. None of the doctors asked for Wrong or his team to stop filming when things did not go as planned.

“Doctors tend to be among the most ethical people in our society – ethics are a big part of delivering medical care and medicine,” Wrong said. “They are already people who have a certain baseline respect for journalistic principles.”

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