Health

The making of 'Code Black' at County-USC

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County-USC's ER at times resembled a war-zone MASH unit. Photo: Zevweb

Zevweb has a nice feature on how the documentary "Code Black" came to tell the story of the emergency room at County-USC Medical Center. In 2008, first-year resident Ryan McGarry decided to capture the hospital's vibe and teamed up with a producing team that included Oscar winner and USC professor Mark Jonathan Harris.

McGarry’s film, Code Black, opened nationwide in June and has become a critical success, a gripping and graphic look at the shifting world of emergency medicine for the destitute and working poor who rely on public hospitals, such as County-USC, for their care. The term Code Black refers to the hospital’s designation for the highest level of emergency room crowding. Among other honors, the film won the Jury Award for best documentary at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival.


Focusing on a cadre of idealistic young residents, including himself, McGarry explores the challenging new realities for the next generation of emergency room physicians as they remain committed to maintaining a personal connection with patients while confronting the escalating regulatory demands and settings that emphasize patient privacy.

Dr. Sean Henderson, chairman of the hospital’s emergency department, says his 21-year-old daughter saw the documentary at a film festival in Santa Barbara and was so inspired that she changed her major.

“She decided to become a physician’s assistant because of that movie,” he said.


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