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'Hopkins' delves deep into world of hospital caregivers

| Tuesday, June 24, 2008

As if neurosurgery weren't dramatic enough.

Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa is in the middle of removing a tumor from his patient's brain. Someone bumps into a piece of equipment. For a moment, it's unclear whether the sudden movement has harmed the man on the operating table.

And it's all caught on tape, as part of a new six-part series produced by ABC News.

"Hopkins," a follow-up to the acclaimed "Hopkins 24/7" from 2000, takes viewers inside the renowned hospital in Baltimore.

Quinones-Hinojosa said the presence of cameras didn't alter how he behaved, not even during surgery.

"I am fully connected to this patient," he said. "I can assure you, the world may be ending and I wouldn't know."

The television crew tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, said Terence Wrong, executive producer of the series.

"It's reduced to one person with one camera, running sound, shooting film, making production decisions all by themselves, and mostly what they do is hang back and let it roll," he said.

To further blend in, the camera crew wore scrubs. They also received training on infectious diseases and patient privacy issues.

Johns Hopkins Hospital officials said after the mostly positive feedback they received following the first documentary, also produced by Wrong, they had few reservations about opening their corridors for a second time.

"I think there's a little bit of mystery of what happens in hospitals, and this was a way to get the story out -- this is what people do at hospitals when they care for people," said Edward D. Miller, dean of the Hopkins medical school and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Wrong said he wanted to revisit Hopkins because of changes that had taken place since the first series, such as more women and international staff members, in addition to improved technology.

One of the biggest changes in the new series, he said, is the stronger focus on the doctors' stories.

"I think reality (television has) completely moved the bar on what 'up close and personal' means, and so you really have to be up close and personal and in their lives," Wrong said. Unlike unscripted series where the players ham it up for the camera, "the people we're focusing on are the most committed professionals who put their career way before being on television."

Among the vignettes about the doctors' lives, Quinones-Hinojosa discusses how he entered the country illegally, beginning as a fruit picker and becoming a sought-after physician. Another surgeon reveals that his marriage is in trouble.

The series also details the struggles and triumphs of patients, including the man with the brain tumor under Quinones-Hinojosa's care, a woman with lung disease and a teen-age heart-transplant candidate.

Given how the television crew became part of the "family," Quinones-Hinojosa said it was only natural that those being hospitalized opened up to the cameras. And when illness makes them feel unsure of themselves, he said, patients "want to know that people care about them, that their stories have a meaning."

What's on when

"Hopkins," based at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, airs on six consecutive Thursdays through July 31.

Thursday: A patient learns whether his brain tumor is malignant; Hopkins's first female urologist helps a couple plan for children.

July 3: A heart surgeon continues to experience trouble in his marriage; a woman waits for a lung transplant.

July 10: A 19-year-old man who's more interested in getting his hair braided than staying in a hospital bed needs a new heart.

July 17: Two parents must deal with the possibility that their seemingly healthy toddler might die if he does not receive a heart transplant.

July 24: A plastic surgeon reconstructs the face of a boy who lost most of his cheek as a result of a tumor being removed when he was a baby.

July 31: The hospital coordinates a complicated three-couple kidney swap that reaches from coast to coast. Additional Information:

'Hopkins'

10 p.m. Thursdays, ABC

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