New York, NY—Dr. David Langer is already well known within health care circles as chairman of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, but he was introduced to a mass audience when he appeared in the recent Netflix documentary, Lenox Hill, and the experienced humbled him.
He participated in a one-hour webinar with facilitator Eric Glazer where the audience had the opportunity to hear directly from the show’s star of what it was like to strike a balance in his personal life and caring for patients.
“So, tell me a little about what it was like, what it has been like going from this very well-known individual within your health care system and within probably your peer groups in the world of neurosurgery to becoming this celebrity, if you will, both in the US and globally. Obviously, Netflix has a global footprint. What has it been like for you personally?” asked Glazer.
“It’s incredibly humbling. Honestly, I think the celebrity thing is a little…. I’m actually amazed how you survive as a celebrity. Especially because I’m a doctor, so I can experience this on one level, but I can still go back and be the person that I’m trained to be that I’ve always been. I’m not re-inventing myself, I don’t have to reinvent myself,” responded Dr. Langer.
He recounted when he watched the first episode with his daughter, she began to cry midway through.
“I asked her, why are you crying?” said Dr. Langer.
He explained that because his daughter’s perception of the celebrity doctor, of the doctor on TV, which is Grey’s Anatomy, was very different from the dad that she saw on the show, and she had never seen him that way.
“And that’s the beauty of that, it made the connection that no one sees doctors that way. That’s why we did the show in the first place, because what people see in fictional television isn’t the reality of what we’re doing, which was the initial thesis statement anyway,” Dr. Langer noted.
Dr. Langer then said that when the film’s producers first approached him about the project, he knew exactly the objective of his participation.
“I knew when they approached me that this was important, primarily to my children. I wanted my kids to see what is valuable.”
He believes that the glorification of athletes, musicians, YouTubers and reality stars comes at the expense of valuing other professions.
“Knowing what we do every day in the real world in health care, it seems ridiculous that we are not expressing that to the world and encouraging young, smart people to do what we are doing, rather than going and making a mobile app that does something kind of silly,” began Dr. Langer.
“That’s powerful. One thing that I’m humbled by is the result, I mean I’ve developed a very strong voice for this. We’re really going to use this power for positive purpose and not for anything other than to spread the word of how much fun, how exciting and how impactful you can be as a physician or health care worker.”
Glazer then asked what was it liked being filmed, how did being in front of the camera impact Dr. Langer and his peers.
Incredibly, according to Dr. Langer, only one camera person followed him around in and out of the hospital. Admittedly, he was put off a little in the beginning, but then he recognized the rich value of particular moments that could resonate with both a mass audience and patients.
“I think the public needs to be let in, and they have to understand the chaos, the complexity and the kind of what we go through as care providers, I think it will help us to message that, and hopefully we can use the show and talk to patients, and say, ‘Hey, you know, you may want to go watch this, it may help you through your hard times.’ And hopefully that’s the way people will see it.”
Then Glazer asked the most anticipatory question: Will there be a second season?
Dr. Langer said he doesn’t know yet, and while the ratings were very good just after launch, Netflix has never produced a second season of a documentary.
“The only sequel that was better than the first was Godfather Part Two. I’m not exactly sure how you make this better. Clearly there’s an appetite from the public. I’d love to tell you that there was going to be a second one, but I just can’t tell you that,” said Dr. Langer.
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