NBC’s New Amsterdam: Promoting Healthcare for Black and Brown Communities

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New Amsterdam is in its second season and since its premiere has garnered a large fan base, largely due to the storylines based on the book Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Manheimer. Eric’s memoir details many issues with our country’s public health system, dealing directly with race, socioeconomic status, citizenship status, and our political climate. We recently attended Morehouse School of Medicine for a special screening of NBC’s New Amsterdam and a conversation on health disparity.

Jireh Breon Holder

Jireh Breon Holder, a writer for NBC, spoke on the relevance of the series for today’s society. According to Holder, “Doctors are here for us. Doctors are people who come from our communities and care for our communities. We do not feel that way frequently.”  

He goes on to speak about how a large portion of the American population feels that hospitals are places where people pass away.  “I did not realize how the prevalent negative view of hospitals affects individuals. People think of hospitals as the place where people pass away. Our show is fighting against that narrative and saying, ‘We are here for you. Public hospitals are here for you.’ Who cares about a bill? Public hospitals have a purpose to provide medical attention for the uninsured to get the care they need.”

In the fourth episode of season two, the series highlights the prevalence of hypertension in the African American community.  Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure and can lead to many health issues such as heart disease. In this episode, one of the doctors attempts to reach out to the African American community in hopes of catching cases of undiagnosed hypertension. Despite his efforts, he is unsuccessful in his initial attempts due to the distrust from community members but finds a way to be a resource.  

When asked about his feelings regarding this episode, Jocko Sims, who stars as Dr. Floyd Reynolds, reveals his personal connection to this health crisis. “This episode meant a lot and hits very close to home. My father struggles with heart disease. He has had several heart attacks and has several stints in his heart, so he is just being held together.  We attempted to get him to take care of himself for years. After each episode, I speak to him, and we have begun working together to help him live a more health-conscious lifestyle.”  

The stories depicted on screen not only tell tales of medical crisis but of personal traumas and character development.  The diversity in the writer’s room has aided New Amsterdam in reaching a wide range of audience members. Regarding the themes and takeaways from season 2, Sims says, “Not everyone is going to grab the same message from our show, but we want you to grab something from it and have fun while watching.” 

New Amsterdam returns January 14, 2020 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.

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