Heroes in White Coats
Docu-series Review: “Lenox Hill”
A gripping, emotionally soaring medical docu-series about four physicians at a NYC hospital and the patients they dedicate their lives to healing.
Lenox Hill may just be the most inspirational medical docu-series I’ve ever seen. The originally planned 8-episode production (filmed over an 18 month period in 2019) focuses on four physicians at the once-sleepy Upper East Side hospital in NYC that was primarily known for obstetrics and orthopedic surgery. Today, Lenox Hill (part of Northwell Health) boasts a Neurosurgery department which has put the facility squarely on the world map, thanks primarily to Dr. David Langer, Chair of the burgeoning department, and his Vice-Chair, Dr. John Boockvar, who like Langer is a Neurosurgeon but brings an unrivaled expertise in the area of neuro-pharmacology to the team’s arsenal of talents and tools.
The bulk of the series seems to center on Langer and Boockvar’s ongoing war against the cruel ravages of a particularly aggressive brain cancer: Glioblastoma. For the record, I’ve never seen such access to the intricacies of brain surgery as was revealed in this series; for the squeamish among us, be warned, this is about as real as it gets. Nor have I witnessed the degree of access to patients and their families, as captured by Lenox Hill.
The same level of intimacy and up-close & personal filmmaking takes place around the other two physicians featured: an E.R. doc named Mirtha Macri and the Chief OB/Gyn Resident, Dr. Amanda Little-Richardson (both of whom give birth while filming the series).
Over the course of the 8 episodes, the camera simply follows these doctors and their patients through the highs and lows of surgeries, cancer diagnoses (even among their own), clinical trials, emergency room drama, and the intensity of the labor/delivery experience. What emerges is a portrait of searing focus, commitment, and love that form the backbone of the hospital itself. What also emerges is a portrait of NYC in all its grimy glory, a tough yet captivating cohort in which beats the heart of the hospital and its staff. Indelibly connected to that ethos was the decision on the part of the filmmakers to add a bonus 9th episode, filmed in March 2020 to capture the experiences of these four doctors and their colleagues and patients as they faced the crisis of Covid-19 in New York City. It makes for both a harrowing and altogether emotionally explosive ending to an incredible and instantly classic medical series.
What co-directors Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash managed to capture in Lenox Hill is nothing less than astonishing. The narrative, as it winds between these four doctors and envelopes both their professional and personal worlds, sweeps the audience along in every heart-stopping moment of drama as well as the dance between tirelessness and exhaustion that is the hallmark of every hospital environment throughout the world. Most resonant — especially in the person of David Langer who is very much the heart and soul of the series — is a humbling sense of duty and devotion to the patients who often become like family. There’s also a thematic connection between Langer and Boockvar in their choice of profession, as an ode to their own fathers, which is quite moving.
Interviewed recently about his participation in the show, Dr. Boockvar has put the current interest in medicine in proximity to the Coronavirus Pandemic. He stated, “I think that viewers are more curious — now, more than ever — about what happens in hospitals, particularly here in New York City, because of COVID,” he told the New York Post. “I think, frankly, the docuseries is coming at a very opportune time because there’s a thirst, a real appetite for what health-care heroes do on a day-to-day basis.”
Lenox Hill is indeed a show about heroes. They include not only the doctors and nurses who have devoted their entire lives to this particular calling but too the patients and their families who courageously place their very lives in the hands of those entrusted with saving them. It is not to be missed.
Lenox Hill is presently streaming on Netflix.
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