Medicine in Art and Cinema

Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman

I decided to start the roundup about the tv shows who have as their subject the doctors or the medicine. I believe that everyone of us, whether doctor or student, will be able to find in it some aspects of his own life, both on the professional and on the human side.

This series was set in America, in the second half of the 19th Century and immediately put us in contact with the hard reality of that times and with the difficulties of being a woman in that reality, moreover a woman doctor!

The main character, Dr. Michaela Quinn, had had big troubles to attend the University courses just because she was a woman. After that she succeeded in her profession just until her father’s death, he was her biggest supporter and a doctor himself. In consequence of this event Michaela is forced to search a job elsewhere and find it in Colorado, a land tormented by deepest contradictions.

In my opinion since the very first minutes that this series shows us is high potential, succeeding to face very deep and sometimes divisive arguments with great clarity. At the heart of all there are two kind of difficulties that influence each other: on one side every element of novelty or diversity who has to approach to a close-minded society; on the other side the member of the society who find very hard to deal whit and to accept an everchanging world.

Dr. Michaela Quinn: I believe I spelled that out quite clearly… that’s Michael with an ‘A’. My father was expecting a male.              

Rev. Johnson: So was I!”

Initially Michaela had great difficulty in acquiring credibility in her new citizen, not only as a foreigner, or as an unmarried woman from the bourgeoisie of Boston, but above all as a woman doctor.

I believe this is one of the key points of the show, indeed Michaela will succeed in being accepted in her role of doctor thanks to the strength of her actions and her knowledge, getting to be an active part of the community as an authoritative member. Even though our society should be more open minded than the one of 19th Century there are still difficulties in calling a woman with her professional status of doctor, at the contrary, people often approach to a woman doctor calling her “lady/Mrs/missis”, relegating the female doctor to a role of marginality and subordination that does not belong to her at all.

The doctor of this story is not the only woman in the show, she will be joined by Indian women, by saloon prostitutes, by her friend Dorothy who suffers domestic violence and who will later undergo breast removal due to cancer, by a woman of colour that decided to open a cafe and that will suffer harassment for the colour of her skin. In brief, a large group of strong women whose presence perfectly made the idea of how difficult was to be a woman in a terribly male chauvinist world.

Obviously, by designing a town so variegated with the intention of recounting different sections of life, there was also a former black slave who still carried the signs of whipping on his body and the Indian tribe of Cheyenne forced to suffer confinement by the Americans in the reserves.

Through each story Michaela shows the qualities that, in my opinion, each doctor should never miss, because being a doctor is not limited to knowing medical books or procedures. Thank to Michaela we see a human doctor, who shows his weaknesses but does not become a victim of them, who exploits his strengths and that goes very proud of being a woman doctor. The main character opens our eyes to alternative medical realities, as in those days could be Indian medicine, which in addition to being based on a particular spirituality, was based on the knowledge of medicinal herbs that often turned out to be real lifesavers also adopted by our Dr. Quinn.

In my opinion this show should be seen by medical students, because through many vicissitudes it manages to explore every aspect of what it means “being human”, such as empathy, understanding, the anger in the face of what cannot be changed, the fight  against diseases always respecting the wishes of the patient, the openness to new forms of care, the importance of being part of a community, the rejection of injustices and differences based on race or religion. Michaela is a woman, a doctor, who listens to anyone with her own heart and who is not afraid of diversity but treasures every experience and human contact knowing that all this can only enrich her.

These points of strength made me fall in love with this Doctor who claims:

And you? Have you ever seen Dr. Queen? Did you like it? Which aspect struck you most? Let us know!

If you’ve never seen it, run to see it!

By Chiara Valerioti