Doctors, nurses hope show is a reality check

Dr. Maria Troulis was filmed by “Boston Med’’ camera crews. Dr. Maria Troulis was filmed by “Boston Med’’ camera crews. (Chitose Suzuki for The Boston Globe)
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / June 13, 2010

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Maria Troulis, an oral maxillofacial surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, was among 20 doctors and nurses shadowed by “Boston Med’’ camera crews from February to May last year.

“I am hoping they will show the reality of hospital-based care, which can be very different than the glorified TV series that we see,’’ says Troulis, who appears in the first episode. Viewers will see her extract a bullet from Framingham Police Officer Phillip Hurton’s face.

“There is a lot of hard work that goes in day to day, and there is a lot of heartache when patients aren’t doing well and aren’t happy or when you are trying to help them and the best you do is not good enough,’’ adds Troulis. “When we do an operation and a patient comes out better, it’s very rewarding.’’

ABC News originally planned to film solely at Mass. General, but many top physicians and executives there were concerned that allowing camera crews complete access to the hospital would be risky for its image. “Boston Med’’ executive producer Terence Wrong traveled to Boston to reassure department chiefs, and hospital executives called counterparts at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, site of a previous show produced by Wrong, to ask about the filming experience.

Mass. General decided to go ahead. Still, many senior surgery residents refused to let camera crews follow them outside the hospital, saying that was an intrusion into their personal lives.

As the production launched, producers realized that many of the residents rotated between Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals. Cases such as that of a woman with a high-risk pregnancy led the production next door to Children’s Hospital Boston.

“We go where the story naturally goes on its own,’’ says Wrong. “We didn’t want to pass up the fact that Brigham’s and Children’s hospitals are connected by a sky bridge.’’

The hospitals gave ABC News unlimited access to their surgical suites and emergency rooms.

“They had full access,’’ says Dr. Peter Slavin, president of Mass. General. There was no financial arrangement between ABC News and the hospitals, but Mass. General did provide a three-room office for the camera crews.

Slavin says his staff had the option of participating. “Anybody who didn’t want to be included didn’t have to be,’’ he says. “It became a non-issue. [Cameras] just faded into the background.’’

Amanda Grabowski, 29, an emergency-room nurse at Mass. General, hopes the series provides an authentic portrait of what nurses do daily. She appears in three episodes that show her tough-love approach with patients — and potential suitors.

“They got a lot of different materials with me, very dramatic stuff and lighthearted stuff,’’ says Grabowski.

Johnny Diaz can be reached at Lizbeth Kowalczyk contributed to this report.