Movie Explores How Med Students’ Passions Will Make Them Better, Healthier Physicians
Ryan Emhoff always wanted to make a movie. Attending Thomas Jefferson University allowed him to do it.
As part of JeffMD’s humanities scholarly inquiry track, the fourth-year Sidney Kimmel Medical College student has spent a large chunk of his University career working on “Medice, Cura Te Ipsum,” Latin for “Physician, Heal Thyself.”
The documentary follows five medical students who have maintained a strong connection to their identities outside of medicine (for example, music, dance and swimming). Emhoff explores how making space for these pursuits will create happier physicians with deeper connections to their patients and broader perspectives.
Ryan Emhoff began work on “Medice, Cura Te Ipsum” in 2018. Above is the 12-minute cut of the movie.
“I’m constantly in awe and inspired by classmates with the talents that they bring to medical school,” says Emhoff, who plans to pursue psychiatry. “I wanted to see how these activities shaped these individuals. How does it change their perspectives and help them cope with our environment?”
Research shows that roughly half of medical students experience burnout, and these feelings of exhaustion, cynicism and perceived inefficacy resulting from long-term job stress, often continue into their professional careers.
One recent report showed that 42 percent of physicians said they felt burned out last year. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said spending too many hours at work contributed to their burnout. The pandemic, of course, only has heightened the situation.
Alarmed by stats like these, Emhoff began developing “Medice, Cura Te Ipsum” in early 2018. Since then, he has spent over 10 hours interviewing students and dozens more editing the footage. He even wrote a song for the movie.
Recent Jefferson medical school grad Dr. Michelle Konkoly is one of the people Emhoff interviewed. The Paralympic gold medalist describes how being a competitive swimmer has translated to improved confidence and leadership as a physician.
“I feel like I’m very clearheaded under pressure and can definitively make decisions,” she shares in the movie.
Emhoff has finished 12- and 40-minute cuts of the film, and to complete the story, he’s making a feature-length version for submission to film festivals. He aims to screen the final piece at medical schools and hospitals as well.
For the public, Emhoff aspires to bring attention to the broader issue of mental health in physicians and medical students, he says. “I hope that everyone would want to become an advocate for change.”
With the medical audience, he would love for the film to reignite dormant passions and allow healthcare providers “to think about those things they have left behind.”
Jefferson’s Megan Voeller says Emhoff’s project captures why Sidney Kimmel Medical College established the humanities scholarly inquiry track to support students engaged in creative forms of research.
“In his film, you see medical students telling first-hand stories about how music, dance, athletics and writing are part of who they are and what keeps them well in a high-stress environment of professional training,” says Voeller, co-director of the humanities scholarly inquiry track. “My own belief is that such students, who have worked so hard to hold on to their whole selves while on a very demanding career path, are particularly well-equipped to connect with patients as people.”