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New Drama Gets Global Health Work Wrong

Memo to ABC: Doctors who work abroad in tropical locations do not generally perform surgeries by candlelight.

As part of a new focus on global health initiatives, Boston hospitals are sending residents abroad. The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts General Hospital sends 30 residents abroad as part of their partnership with in Mission of Mercy Hospital and Research Centre in Kolkata, the hospital that once cared for Mother Teresa.

In the article, Mass General medical student Dr. Gina Rae Kruse sums up the reason for the program's popularity with residents:

So many of us go into medicine because we want to help people, said Kruse. This gives us a chance to reach out


As a result Mass General has launched a new four-year program in global primary care. Its Office of Disaster Response has had a long history of going abroad and assisting people in times of need. They are often first to respond to international disasters including 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami, and they worked with the Navy in Haiti relief. For disasters, they often set up field hospitals using MGH doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who volunteer.

Neighboring hospital Beth Israel Deaconess has a Global Health Track degree program where medical students can opt for international global medicine work as part of their residency. As well Children's Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary send residents abroad to help.

And while it's highly unlikely that ABC modeled their latest medical drama Off The Map on any of these Boston doctors or residents, the topic of doctors abroad is a hot one. The show about aid workers, which premiered last night, was lambasted by Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times, who wrote:

Off the Map is a series about aid workers abroad that keeps the abroad part purposely vague and innocuous. The setting is an unnamed South American country. Spanish would seem like an easy and helpful criterion for the job, yet not one of the chosen three speaks a word of it.

The primitive location, wherever it is, offers exotic diseases and treatments (a coconut transfusion, to name one), though mostly it provides a balmy romantic background for seduction. The doctors even perform surgery by candlelight.


Coconut transfusion? Sounds like the show is getting its cocktails confused.

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