How-To is a documentary film by director Ricardo Ismach and Casual Dog Productions, LLC. A fascinating biography of an inspiring physician and scientist, the film also examines the conflicts and synergies between an individual – a healer, scientist, artist, athlete, activist, husband, father – and the medical-industrial complex.
Alan Steinbach grew up in a family of academicians, surrounded by scientific achievement and intellectual rigor. But, while attending “Science School” each summer with Nobel laureates and other luminaries, he also swam, sailed, and rode around Cape Cod in a boy’s idyll. This complexity has been a thread throughout his life: from Berkeley neuroscience hot-shot to commune-dwelling dropout, then on to a career as a Physician and medical educator, he embodies the richness and diversity of character that was once the norm among Western doctors.
But our Medical-Industrial Complex has snuffed the individual from health care. With “productivity standards” that tell us we only have 15 minutes per patient and scripted interactions aimed at improving Press Ganey scores (“Would you like some oxycodone with that, ma’am?”) dominating our professional lives, how can we maintain our sense of individuality in the face of a career that is much more consuming than any 9-to-5 job? Is there room in health care for clinicians to also be artists, or athletes, or activists, or friends and parents? And, even more important, how can we maintain our human connections as healers? How do our professional choices – specialty, practice setting, and partners or coworkers – enhance or limit these horizons? How-To shows how.
Of particular interest to anyone considering or pursuing a career in medicine, How-To will captivate a much broader audience – all of us have interacted with physicians, nurses, and other healers, and all of us are affected by the pressures and limits that shape them and their practice. But for young physicians, the film will be especially poignant and inspiring, pointing the way to preserving and cultivating our diverse talents and interests in the face of sometimes soul-crushing pressures. And for those charged with helping trainees make big decisions (medical and college librarians, career counsellors, Dean’s office staff, and academic nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, therapists, and physicians of every stripe), How-To is a modern vehicle for guiding and leading discussions and decision making.