MacArthur Fellows Program

Gretchen Berland

Physician-Filmmaker | Class of 2004

Combining two professions to highlight for lay audiences and for doctors-in-training how affliction creates physical and social barriers that usually pass unnoticed.

Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, Connecticut
40 at time of award

Gretchen Berland is a physician who uses her experience in documentary production and journalism to highlight issues that are critical to understanding and improving health care. Her video project, “Cross-Cover,” provides a first-person perspective on the problems faced by young doctors during their internship year; it chronicles the changes in their attitudes toward the patients they treat and in their personal and professional aspirations. Its frank portrayal of the internship process has been cited as a valuable tool for improving the quality of medical training. Berland’s more recent project, “Rolling,” uses the video diary format to document the experiences of several people who, for varying medical reasons, require wheelchairs for mobility. By placing the camera in the hands of her three subjects, she presents their struggles to maintain independence and dignity in the face of their disabilities from a compelling and informative vantage point. Berland also served as lead author on a survey of health information resources on the Internet. The study found that health care consumers, those with lower reading skills in particular, face significant obstacles to locating accurate, complete, and understandable information on a variety of common medical problems. Through her efforts, Berland prompts physicians and the public to consider several key questions about health and society: how we learn about our own health, how physicians teach and learn, and how affliction creates physical and social barriers that often pass unnoticed.

Gretchen Berland received a B.A. (1986) from Pomona College and an M.D. (1996) from Oregon Health and Science University. Prior to attending medical school, Berland participated in the production of programs for the PBS television series NOVA and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. She completed her internship and residency at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, Barnes Hospital (1996–1999). Berland was a fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (1999–2001). Since 2001, she has been an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.

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Please credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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