Thursday, June 4, 2020

Review: The Color of Medicine: The Story of Homer G. Phillips Hospital

Release date: May 12, 2020
Running time: 110 minutes

The Color of Medicine is a documentary about the Home G. Phillips Hospital.  The hospital was one of the early black hospitals, and one that aspired to not only be a great black hospital, but a great hospital period.  The film documents the rise and fall of the St. Louis, Missouri hospital that trained the largest number of Black doctors and nurses in the world from 1937 through 1979, before and after desegregation.  

The most striking thing about this documentary is the quality of alumni that have come from Homer G. Phillips.  The hospital certainly achieved its goal of being a premier hospital in its own right.  And this story is told by the best sources: those who trained at and practiced at Homer G. Phillips.  The story is told from the perspective of resident doctors, doctors who were selected to train at the hospital, and from nurses who worked there.  This allows for plenty of stories about the hospital and the environment.  The documentary also gives a little backstory about the namesake of the hospital, and some of the mysterious circumstances surrounding his life.  And the film also highlights some of the most prestigious alumni from the hospital and their amazing achievements.  It is really a treat to see the heights that these alumni attained and it seems like every interview mentions another person who was a leader in their field.  

However, the film's greatest asset is both a blessing and a curse.  The interviews are very interesting to hear, and provide a lot of detail about the hospital and its history.  However, sometimes these interviews seem to be focused on some of the nuances of the hospital that are less interesting than the overall story of it.  Some of the interviews also seem to go on tangents with no clear purposes.  And there will be interview after interview that this happens.  It feels like this documentary is more of a living history of the hospital, and could have benefited from some more structure.  Although I do appreciate the desire to get as much information as possible into the film, and I am sure that there are plenty of people that will really enjoy that aspect, I ultimately wish that that there was some more focus and that the editing had been a little more surgical.  But that being said, you still leave the documentary with the impression that this was a special hospital that trained the best of the best, regardless of their skin color.

The Color of Medicine highlights an amazing hospital and its prestigious, world-renowned alumni through the best sources, those that worked at Homer G. Phillips hospital. 

Rent it.

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