Documentary Film Highlights MSU Students Becoming Leaders in Medicine

Calling attention to the ongoing needs of underserved residents in Flint, a new documentary film by ComArtSci students and faculty shines light on MSU's Leadership in Medicine program.

Geri Alumit Zeldes, a journalism professor and faculty excellence advisor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, is an Emmy-Award-winning documentary creator. Zeldes is the executive producer of the recently released documentary, “A Change of Practice: Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved.” This documentary chronicles Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine’s Leadership in Medicine Program. 
As shown in the film, the MSU Leadership in Medicine program is based in Flint, Mich., and offers students the opportunity to gain experience working with underserved and vulnerable populations. Through this program, students learn the impact of empathy in medicine. They learn how to ask questions that aim to address the root of a patient’s problem while treating them as more than another piece of paper. 

“These students are individuals who ask the sort of questions that we should all be asking in our interpersonal relationships,” said Zeldes. “Why are people the way they are? Why can’t they afford medication? Why can’t they eat very well? It’s not just who they are, but it’s the system working against them.”

Students in the program are required to learn Spanish. The program was designed with the intention that these students would go work in rural and underserved areas in South America following their completion of the program. However, many students in the program have chosen to stay in America and help the underserved populations here. 

“They’re working to progress the philosophy of medicine with the overall idea of empathy,” said Audrey Matusz, the film’s head editor. “It shows you that they’re not here for a check, but to improve the state of their world. The questions these students are asking can be applied to people everywhere, not just in the context of medicine.”

While the film was being created, students were able to participate in every step of the film’s development from filming to editing. Director Jennifer Berggren, a graduate of the Department of Media and Information, loved getting the opportunity to not only learn more about the various programs Michigan State University offers, but also to offer students real-world filmmaking experience. 

“Even though it can be hard working with tons of people over such long stretches of time, I love teaching and bringing students in to get hands-on experience,” said Berggren. “For me, not only do I get to learn from the film’s subjects, but I also get to connect with the ComArtSci students and give them an opportunity to have practical experience making films, shooting video and editing.”

In addition to the program, the film highlights important, overlooked communities in the public health sector. Berggren said the goal of the documentary is to reach other universities and inspire them to adopt similar programs to that of MSU’s Leadership in Medicine. 

As it currently stands, MSU is the only university in the country that offers the Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved Program – a residency, service-based program for underserved populations. To have other universities adopt similar programs would be revolutionary for the medical community, said Matusz. 

The documentary will be screened for the residents of Flint on February 25, at the MSU’s College of Human Medicine Flint Area Medical Education building. The public is invited to come and watch. 

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By Pierce Wiselogle