Producers, scribes meet with medical experts

TV dramas have long played a part in raising awareness of health concerns and medical issues, from “St. Elsewhere” tackling HIV and AIDS to “ER” examining a host of crises during its run.

But rarely have industryites been able to witness the real-life drama of endemic health problems as they will Sunday when USC’s Annenberg Norman Lear Center and the Gates Foundation sponsor a weeklong trip for a clutch of top TV scribes and producers to South Africa and India.

The initiative is organized by the Lear Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society unit, which focuses on connecting medical experts with TV writers and producers. The unit is funded primarily by the Centers for Disease Control in an effort to ensure accuracy in the portrayal of public-health issues.

Trip marks a marriage between HHS’ approach to “entertainment education” and the Gates Foundation’s goal of increasing awareness of global health problems. Writers and producers will visit Johannesburg and Mumbai and be immersed in these foreign cultures, experience the way health care is developed and talk to local healthcare providers about medical issues and solutions found in those regions.

Among those set for the trek are Neal Baer and Jonathan Green (“Law & Order: SVU”), Jennifer Cecil (“Private Practice”), Carol Barbee (“Jericho”), and Walt Disney Feature Animation exec Karen Tenkhoff.

“It’s rare for Hollywood writers to get involved with global health topics,” said HHS director Sandra de Castro Buffington. “Our goal is to inspire writers … and have them inspire their colleagues.”

The WGA West will host a panel sesh June 15 for participants to share their experiences.

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