Thursday, July 15, 2010

Q&A with William Curry Jr., MD

Dr. Curry in Episode 3

In episode three of ABC's "Boston Med," which aired July 8, William Curry Jr., MD, performs a complicated brain surgery on patient Ron Haynes.

What was it like to be filmed while working and to be followed by a film crew?

"It ended up feeling pretty natural after the first one or two days -- largely because the field producers and camera people were so skilled at being inconspicuous. It added a little time to my day, to answer questions and such, but all patient interactions and day-to-day work went as they normally do. The strangest part was the few times that the crew walked me home -- walking through Boston at night with a lit camera on me caught some attention."

What was your reaction after watching the episode you were featured in? "It was the first time I had seen myself on camera. I had no idea what it was going to look like or sound like -- but I wasn't particularly nervous because I was there for all the filming, of course. I was very happy with how it came out."

Where did you watch the episode? Who were you with -- and what did they think? My family was away, so I watched it at a restaurant with my friend and colleague Scott Plotkin. I was on the phone throughout with the show with my wife, though. She thought 'Boston Med' did a great job of capturing what I'm like, what my day-to-day work is like and what my patient relationships are like. She thought it was really true to life."

Have any of your patients mentioned the show to you? "In the first couple of days afterward, I got a lot of e-mails from past and current patients. They seemed really supportive and were pleased with it. A lot of them wrote to say that the show brought memories from their own "episode" with us and thanked us for what we had done for them in the past. 'Boston Med' is so interesting because it shows former patients that other people have gone and are going through the same things they have, while at the same time giving current patients a little bit of hope."

The surgery you performed seemed complicated and with numerous risks -- but you were very confident. Had you performed the same surgery before? "It is a fairly complicated surgery, with a lot of critical steps and potential for risk. And Ron had a fairly rare disease. But because of the centers that we've built here at the hospital -- the Cranial Base Center and the Center for Head and Neck Cancer -- I've done that surgery more than 50 times. We've been able to build up a great deal of experience in just a few years, and experience is the name of the game when it comes to successful outcomes."

While at the MGH, the ABC crews filmed approximately 2,500 hours of footage. Obviously, a lot had to be cut. Was there anything you wanted to add to the story ABC portrayed? "The surgery I performed was really critical, but Ron's success was due to a real team effort -- the Center for Head and Neck Cancer, the Department of Radiation Oncology and the Cancer Center overall. As proud as I am of doing an effective surgery, he wouldn't be where he is today without all of the resources we have here at MGH, human and otherwise."

Have you been in touch with Ron at all since the episode aired? "Not yet, but I'm planning on sending him a note. It's funny, a lot of patients, after I follow up with them, say 'Thanks so much, but I hope I never see you again,' because not seeing me means that they’re staying ahead of their disease -- and that's our ultimate goal."

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