The makers of "Hopkins 24/7," the six-hour ABC television documentary on the Johns Hopkins Medical Center, met with some of their toughest critics last night: about 100 members of the Hopkins medical community who came together to offer their critique of the acclaimed series.
While there was considerable praise for the work of ABC News, there were also those who said they felt betrayed by what the filmmakers delivered vs. what they promised when they originally asked the hospital for access to film the show.
In opening remarks, Phyllis McGrady, the executive vice president of ABC News who conceived of the project and persuaded Hopkins to grant access, acknowledged "that we had some disappointments."
She identified them as not being able to show more of the research and teaching that goes on at Hopkins, as well as shortchanging the role of the nursing staff.
"But, overall, we felt this was a very successful project ... that captured the essence of this incredible place," she added.
Still, McGrady had hardly finished when Lisa Phifer, director of pediatric nursing, said, "I happen to have been in the board room when you pitched this series to us ... and I feel betrayed. I think you missed the mark on showing the true nature of an educational medical center and Hopkins as this jewel in the crown of the health care system."
Phifer was reacting to statements from McGrady and other ABC News executives yesterday that suggested the emphasis on colorful doctors and life-and-death emergency-room scenarios were the result of priorities set by the network for prime-time programs.
J. "Ski" Lower, a nurse and manager in neuroscience, said she shared Phifer's sense of betrayal.
"The essence of what makes Hopkins great is that we work as an incredible team," she said. "Where were the nurses?"
The remarks of both nurses were met with applause from the audience gathered in Hurd Hall on the campus of the medical center.
"Did we fail to adequately convey the academic research mission? I think we did," said Terry Wrong, one of the series producers.
"Lisa, I'm deeply saddened that you feel betrayed," Peter Bull, another producer, said in response, explaining that he and the other ABC filmmakers "occupy a very odd position" of doing news documentaries in what is "essentially an entertainment medium."
Perhaps, the loudest applause of the 90-minute session, though, came when Dr. John Freeman, a pediatric neurologist, said, "I don't feel betrayed. I would have liked to see more research. But I am very proud to have been part of this production and want to thank ABC News."