Patrick Junior (in yellow shirt) with relatives and friends

Patrick Junior (in yellow shirt) with relatives and friends


Laura Doggett (MDH), Chris Newberry, Thanh Nguyen (VSS), Dung Pham (VSS)

Laura Doggett (MDH), Chris Newberry, Thanh Nguyen (VSS), Dung Pham (VSS), Pauline Nguyen (VSS)

After I saw the documentary American Heart (reviewed in an earlier blog post), it occurred to me that it would be interesting to show this film to recent immigrants and refugees – the subjects of the film.  I reached out to the director, Chris Newberry, and to people I knew at the Minnesota Department of Health Office of Refugee Health, as well as one of my clients, Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota.

We all put our heads together and planned a special screening which took place at VSS earlier this summer.  We had a star-studded audience – Patrick Junior, the scene stealer of the film, was there with several friends and relatives, some of whom also appeared in the film.  Director Chris Newberry attended and discussed the making of the film.  The audience also included public health professionals and several people from the Karen, Hmong and Vietnamese communities.

 Seeing this movie a second time gave me more to think about:

  • the need to examine more deeply the role and benefit of hospice care in different cultures (one patient embraced it and another rejected it)
  • cultural and language barriers, even when interpreters are used
  • the role interpreters can play beyond interpreting (e.g., serving as a bridge between cultures)

As Chris noted, audience members relate to the film in different ways and this is indeed true.  I hope there will be many more opportunities around the Twin Cities to view the film and discuss the complex matters it raises: life, death, family dynamics during times of stress and illness, religious faith, and the role of culture in navigating the health care “system” (among others).  I can envision some lively discussions, meaningful personal connections made and, who knows, maybe even some positive policy changes.  To subscribe to Chris’ American Heart newsletter for more updates, click here.