Physician, author and movie buff Peter Dans of Cockeysville, Md., is always seeking out good movies about his profession. But finding films -- especially respectful ones -- about women doctors, he says, is tough.
Throughout most of film history, "when men are portrayed [as doctors], their professional life is shown as selfless and helpful," said Dans in a phone interview. In contrast, many films about women doctors portray the difficulty that American society has had in accepting women into this profession. (According to the American Medical Association, women comprised 7.6 percent of the physician force in 1970; by 2003, that number had risen to 25.8 percent.)
In the movie "Mary Stevens, M.D." (1933), for example, the title character is threatened with a knife by an immigrant father when she arrives to deliver a baby, writes Dans in "Doctor in the Movies" (MEDI-ED Press, 2000). He roars, "Woman doctor no good. I need a man doctor. . . . If the bambino dies, I kill you." Women psychiatrists, writes Dans, have noted the cheap, unprofessional look of the woman psychiatrist in "The Prince of Tides" (1991).
Dans will discuss the sexist attitudes displayed on film in a free lecture Thursday, June 30, called "Hollywood and Women Doctors." The event will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the National Institutes of Health, Lister Hill Auditorium, Lister Hill Center, Building 38A, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda. Seating is first come, first served. To learn more, call 301-496-5963.
-- Samantha Sordyl