Many American physicians know that they need to do a better job of helping the veteran population. When Todd Fredricks, a physician with Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Brian Plow, an associate professor and associate director for undergraduate studies in the Scripps College of Communication, joined forces to create a tool student physicians could use to better understand their future veteran patients ─ they knew they had found their answer ─ a documentary film called “The Veterans’ Project.”
Due out in May 2017, the documentary is produced by “Media in Medicine,” a collaboration of visual media and medicine between Fredricks and Plow to create and teach through stories.
Kyle P. Snyder, Lecturer & Outreach Coordinator in the School of Media Arts & Studies, is serving as Audio Post Production Coordinator & Engineer for “The Veterans’ Project” and leading a team of students in the completion of the final deliverables.
The inspiration for the documentary came from research produced by Dr. Fredricks, who found that civilian doctors often don’t fully understand the physical and emotional trauma of combat or know what common issues to watch for in these patients.
“If we teach people to ask the right questions, maybe we will get better care as an outcome,” said Dr. Fredricks.
Dr. Fredericks presented his findings at professional conferences and published them in a medical journal. However, he knew that he could only reach a certain audience of colleagues using these methods. He wanted to spread the message more broadly and connect with medical students and physicians who needed to hear it most.
Both faculty members agreed early in the project that the veterans’ interviews would serve a dual purpose: as documentary sources and as subjects of a qualitative research project designed to document and analyze service personnel experiences with combat and health care. As a result, the documentary interviews are conducted in a systematic, consistent manner so the team can collect viable research data as well as compelling stories for the film.
Both the filmmakers and veterans spend time vetting each other before agreeing to participate.
“Once they see that we have a clear and unique intention, the reception is very good and they are very generous with their stories and time,” Plow said.“ The subjects tend to launch into an eloquent and moving recounting of their experiences.”
Though the interviews are standardized for the sake of research integrity, the filmmakers also seek opportunities to shoot additional footage of the veterans’ lives in order to paint a more complete and honest picture of them for the documentary. The subjects have been fairly amenable and have allowed the filmmakers to capture family dinners or birthday parties.
As for the veterans’ interactions with the health care system, Dr. Fredricks said that the most common theme that they see are false assumptions on the part of clinicians.
For example, a veteran recounted how his local physician assumed that he was seeking heavy painkillers for a fractured spine problem, when the patient wanted only to refill an ibuprofen prescription.
Dr. Fredricks has found—in the interviews and research—that clinicians also don’t understand Veterans Affairs services, including how veterans can easily access them.
“You can do legitimate research in a beautiful way,” Fredricks said. “The elegance of the format can help build knowledge.”
More information about the project can be found online at http://www.mediainmedicine.com/.