A Physician Group Serving Alameda Health System

Highland in Spotlight at Film Festival

Highland Hospital, Alameda Health System' flagship, is featured in an innovative documentary film that will compete in the prestigious San Francisco International Film Festival.

To bring "The Waiting Room" to life, ACMC leadership bravely opened Highland's doors to Emmy-winning documentarian Peter Nicks. What emerged was an intimate day-in-the-life look at what goes on in our busy, ethnically diverse safety net public hospital. The film gives rare insight into the world of patients, family members, doctors, nurses and social workers.

At first, said ACMC CEO Wright L. Lassiter III, "we were concerned such a film had the potential to portray our patients and system in an unflattering manner." After all, Highland had been steadily improving in recent years, and was making great progress in such patient-centric areas as shortening wait times.

But Mr. Nicks' pitch succeeded, and the Executive Team and Board of Trustees got behind the project. Mr. Lassiter wrote in a National Association of Public Hospitals blog titled "A Miracle on 31st Street" that "The Waiting Room" is something to be proud of.

The film "showcases the talent that is housed at ACMC," Mr. Lassiter wrote, "portraying the high quality of care we provide in many specialty areas and our high standards of service excellence embodied in the respectful and compassionate approach we bring to our work."

With unprecedented access to a modern public hospital and its patients, the filmmakers paint a portrait of what it's like to be sick or injured during an economic downturn without health insurance. Among the patients are a young girl with a serious case of strep throat, a young man in need of surgery, a mother struck by a runaway car, and people suffering from chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes and from drug and alcohol abuse.

People in "The Waiting Room" were encouraged to tell their stories directly to the camera, and plans include a future project to put storytelling kiosks in other hospitals. "The Waiting Room" also has social media components designed to create sustained community interaction focused on health care.

Mr. Nicks has worked as a staff producer for ABC News in New York and as a producer for the PBS documentary Life 360. He has a Masters in filmmaking from the University of California, Berkeley, and lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two children.

"The Waiting Room" received major funding from the MacArthur Foundation and The San Francisco Foundation.

The 55th annual San Francisco International Film Festival runs from April 19–May 3. The film is being screened at a number of film festivals and is scheduled to air on PBS' "Independent Lens" this fall. It might also see a limited theatrical release in art houses.





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