Research catches eye of Alberta film awards

April 24, 2009 - Edmonton-When researchers embark on a new project, they don't tend to think about making movies about their work. Earle Waugh and Olga Szafran certainly didn't think they'd be in pro

28 April 2009

April 24, 2009 - Edmonton-When researchers embark on a new project, they don't tend to think about making movies about their work.

Earle Waugh and Olga Szafran certainly didn't think they'd be in production after completing their study on cultural understanding of health-care professionals, but they were, and now they're up for an Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association award.

Waugh, Szafran and colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry started their work in 2005, going to four different cultural communities in Alberta: First Nations (Cree), Francophone, Chinese and Lebanese Muslims. They had these communities take part in focus-group discussions and questionnaires about medical treatment in Alberta on dementia and end-of-life issues. They also talked with health-care professionals on the same issue. What the research team found was that health-care professionals do not have a clear enough understanding of cultural differences. They also found these multicultural communities didn't feel that doctors took into account cultural specifics when treating patients for dementia and end-of-life care.

"The health-care professionals felt comfortable in dealing with a diverse population, in greeting them in a culturally appropriate way," said Szafran. "What they were uncomfortable with and indicated where they lack knowledge was in the training. The vast majority of them didn't receive any formal training in cultural competence."

This realization made the research group decide to produce eight videos, four in English that are directed at medical professionals and four in the native language of these cultural groups, to help patients understand that doctors are interested and want to work within the patient's cultural specifics. All eight are now on a DVD entitled Medical Cultural Competence Teaching Series: Culturally Responsive Care in the Community.

"I think it's actually unusual that researchers from any institution sort of cross that boundary into the arts," said Szafran, who already has a request from the Wetaskiwin hospital for the videos to show their First Nations patients.

Four of the eight 10-minute videos have been nominated for an AMPIA award. The nominated films, directed by Michael Olsen with Backlight productions, were funded from various sources including the Scott McLeod Fund in the Department of Family Medicine. The researchers are proud of the fact they produced these videos on a shoestring budget, under $4,000 each.

"That's extraordinary. Even for a short film that's very cheap in this market," said Waugh. "I think we have to give kudos to the directors and to the people who did such excellent work with very little to work with."

Waugh and Szafran know they have some stiff competition for the award, which will be handed out May 2. They're up against four other nominees including a heavy hitter, the Royal Tyrell Museum.

"We're going to go there optimistically," said Szafran. "We just want to enjoy ourselves and we'll just see what happens."

"We think this is great for family medicine; as far as we know family medicine hasn't been [up for a film award] before," said Waugh.

And there is much more to come from this project.. According to Waugh "this has legs much bigger than Alberta." They're currently working on integrating these films into workshops and they're developing a learning manual that they want to get out to medical and nursing schools across the country.

"We are concerned because drawing from what we found in the community there's a growing gap between what professionals were trained to handle and what, in the field, they have to handle," said Waugh. "When you put this whole package together it's really quite impressive and we're delighted with this kind of knowledge."

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