How USC, Yale healthcare experts are helping TV writers rethink COVID-19 storytelling

Television shows — medical dramas, in particular — are writing storylines about COVID-19 with the help of physicians and public health experts, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 15.

Earlier in the year, Cultique, an adviser on cultural issues to the entertainment industry, launched its "Be a Protector" campaign to encourage entertainment industry professionals to model safe COVID-19 behavior.

Yale University, the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California signed on to the campaign, as did the Ad Council and the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit that collaborates with actors, directors and entertainment industry workers to educate others on social issues. The partners disseminate information, hold Zoom meetings and provide raw data on COVID-19 for television writers to implement into storylines.

"The Resident," a medical drama on Fox, has a storyline airing in November that shows a patient dying after refusing the implantation of a lifesaving medical device.

"We wanted to be able to engage people in thinking about the fundamental tragedy of how distrust in science can lead to unnecessary death," said Daniela Lamas, MD, a physician and writer for the show.

ABC shows "Station 19" and "Grey’s Anatomy" have previously addressed COVID-19, but now the shows portray a post-pandemic world. They began their fall seasons by displaying opening cards that said their shift from COVID-19 storylines signifies "hope for the future."


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