Lights, camera, surgery

Julia Neyman

This winter the TV show “ER” will have to compete with Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a glimpse into the medical world.

Northwestern Hospital is featured in the first two episodes of “Mini-Med School TV,” a PBS program. The half-hour show explains a medical topic and takes viewers into the operating room. After the procedures, patients talk about their experience.

“We jumped at the chance to participate,” said Kelly Sullivan, director of public relations for Northwestern Memorial. “It’s a deserving tribute to our hardworking physicians, nurses and staff.”

Although the hospital is a separate corporation from the university, students, physicians and faculty from NU’s Feinberg School of Medicine work at the teaching facility.

Neurology Prof. Hunt Batjer at the Feinberg School of Medicine was featured in the first show that aired Feb. 4. Tonight’s episode, airing at 9:30 p.m., will follow Patrick McCarthy, Feinberg’s chief of cardiothoracic surgery, through heart surgeries.

McCarthy said he thinks heart surgery was chosen as the topic for the pilot episode because heart disease the top cause of death in the United States.

“Heart disease is a very compelling story,” he said. “Since it’s so widespread, there is someone — friends, family, someone you worked with — who has heart disease.”

In tonight’s show, McCarthy will give a talk on heart disease and operate on two patients using innovative techniques and cutting-edge technology. For one patient, who suffered from three heart attacks before coming on the show, McCarthy performed a quadruple bypass surgery, repaired two heart valves and removed a heart aneurysm.

“(The patient) says it’s the best he’s felt in 25 years,” McCarthy said.

For the show’s other patient, McCarthy installed a new type of pacemaker.

Marci Rubin, the executive producer for “Mini-Med,” said Northwestern Memorial was a natural choice for the show because of the caliber of its “super docs.”

“If I needed an open heart surgery, the first person in the world I would call is Dr. McCarthy,” Rubin said.

The show’s concept is not a new idea. Rubin said hospitals in 36 states have been hosting informal medical seminars that are open to the public for the last five years. She said she was inspired to create the show after a seminar at the University of Chicago.

“I said (to myself), ‘This has to come to public television because this information is vital and timely,'”Rubin said. “The most important part of ‘Mini-Med’ is the doctors teach it in everyday language.”

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