Many researchers have studied patient–physician communication and documented the tensions and misunderstandings often seen in this important process. But these concerns are far greater when the patients are minorities or don't understand English well, and when doctors aren't equipped to explain the intricacies of care to people whose cultural beliefs may make American medicine a mystery.
Award-winning filmmakers Maren Grainger-Monsen, M.D., and Julia Haslett explore these issues in a just-completed series of films called Worlds Apart, which document the experiences of minority Americans and patients from other countries in the U.S. health care system. This unique project, made with partial support from The Commonwealth Fund, dramatizes communication between patients and their doctors, tensions between modern medicine and cultural beliefs, and the ongoing burdens of racial and ethnic discrimination. Film clips and the study guide are posted below.
- Mohammad Kochi, an Afghani man with stomach cancer, refuses chemotherapy in part because of poor communication between his doctors and his daughters, who act as his translators.
- Robert Phillips, a 29-year-old black man, has been waiting three years for a kidney transplant. He's frustrated with the medical bureaucracy and feels that black patients may not be readily referred for a new kidney because physicians think "they're just going to ruin it anyway."
- Justine Chitsena, a 4-year-old girl from Laos, needs surgery for a congenital heart defect. Her grandmother adheres to traditional Laotian and Buddhist beliefs and worries that the scar will affect Justine's spirit in her subsequent lives, while her mother worries that her family will blame her if something goes wrong.
- Alicia Mercado, a 60-year-old Puerto Rican woman, struggles to keep up with her chronic diabetes, hypertension, and asthma after being evicted from her apartment and suffering depression.