Working doctors at core of 'Hopkins'

June 22, 2008|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

The doctors of ABC's Hopkins might look and sound like the characters on Grey's Anatomy, but they really are among the best in their fields. And they represent the changing face of American medicine with more women and top specialists from other countries.

Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa says he never could have "dreamed" 20 years ago when he entered the United States illegally as a migrant worker that one day he would be doing brain surgery at Hopkins.

"I was born in a small little border town between the United States and Mexico, and all I wanted to do when I came to the United States was make a little money and send it home to my family so that we could actually put food on the table."

But after studying at such schools as the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University, he now finds himself a star surgeon at Hopkins.

"The only difference now is that I got an education. But I'm still the same crazy son of a gun I was 20 years ago."

As for being featured in the documentary: "I was scared," he says. "I was scared for my patients, my family and myself. ...This is very stressful. ... But I trusted the institution, and they wanted me to do it."

Dr. Brian Bethea, who is finishing a residency in cardiothoracic surgery, says he knew making the grade at Hopkins would take a toll on his personal life. He didn't know that it might cost him his marriage.

"My dad is a cardiac surgeon, so I knew growing up what the hours would be like. But to do this job right, you have to put the patients first, which means everything else - your family, yourself - by definition comes second."

Dr. Karen Boyle, the first female surgeon in urology at Hopkins, says it took time for her to become comfortable in her job.

"When I first decided to go into urology, I had to become really comfortable with all the words and all the problems and just talk like, you know, we're just talking about the weather," she says. "The first time that someone has to pull down their pants and I have to examine them, I just act like it's an everyday thing, because it really is."

Dr. Anne Czarnik, who works in the Hopkins ER, sees the bloody results of Baltimore's many social ills on a nightly basis - and it's taken a toll.

"I don't think anything could prepare you for Baltimore," she says in the film. "It's like a social nightmare in the city. It was a shock for me. Now, I'm used to it."

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