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Faces of Medicine

Faces of Medicine shares the stories of some of the Black women who represent only ~2.8% of doctors in the US. The core footage consists of recorded live interviews of a diverse group of Black female physicians conducted by Dr. Khama Ennis. She bears witness as they share the stories of how they became doctors, who their allies were, how they cope with challenges and what they have learned. We hear in their own voices how they confronted the detracting forces that tried to undermine their dreams.

The film begins with Dr. Khama Ennis describing the life factors that led to the creation of this documentary. We then turn to L’Merchie Frazier, the director of education at the Museum of African American History in Boston who shares the story of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s path to becoming the first Black female physician in the US in 1864. Dr. Thea James, who was one of the first college graduates in her family, shares the story of her circuitous path to a career in emergency medicine. The story of Dr. Valerie Stone, illuminates the roadblocks that can be presented even from those who want the best for us. Inspired to pursue medicine after seeing her grandmother suffer from a biased health system leading to her untimely death she also had to defy the expectation from her family that she marry and become a homemaker. Dr. Rose Cesar immigrated to Boston from Haiti as a teen and attended medical school as a young wife and new mother. We also share the story of Dr. Lynnette Watkins, who pursued leadership after clinical work to become a hospital President and COO. As the daughter of a physician, she is a rare second generation Black ophthalmologist.

These stories are not usually highlighted in the tellings of medical achievements and need to be known. There are young Black and brown women who have never imagined that someone who looks like them could have the opportunity to pursue a career in medicine, much less that there is living proof around the corner. Through these stories, we aim to disrupt the notion of who can become a doctor and inspire the next generation of underrepresented doctors. These people and many more will have the opportunity to take a peak inside the lives of some of the people who may be their next doctor.

  • Khama Ennis
    Executive Producers
  • Seth Lepore
    Executive Producers
  • Jenahye Johnson
    Executive Producers
  • Monty Ross
    Consulting Producer
    School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Keep the Faith, Baby, River Runs Red, 1 Angry Black Man
  • Khama Ennis
    Director
  • Khama Ennis
    Writer
  • Khama Ennis
    Key Cast
    "Herself"
  • L'Merchie Frazier
    Key Cast
    "Herself"
  • Thea James
    Key Cast
    "Herself"
  • Valerie Stone
    Key Cast
    "Herself"
  • Rose Cesar
    Key Cast
    "Herself"
  • Lynnette Watkins
    Key Cast
    "Herself"
  • Dominique Ulloa
    Lead Editor
  • Danyelle Greene
    Assistant Editor
  • D.K. the Punisher
    Score
  • Live Edge Recording Studio
    Audio Mixing
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature, Television, Other
  • Genres:
    History, Biography, Personal and POV, Social and Human Interest, Youth and Children, Gender, Society and Community, Medicine, Health Equity
  • Runtime:
    49 minutes 54 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 2, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    250,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    4K, 2K, HD Video
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Amherst Cinema, Mass Humanites Grant Funded Screening
    Amherst, MA
    United States
    October 16, 2023
Director Biography - Khama Ennis

Khama Ennis, MD, MPH is the Project Creator, Primary Researcher, Co-Director, and Original Work Author for Faces of Medicine. This is her first film.

Dr. Ennis is a practicing physician working in holistic medicine grounded in integrative health and lifestyle medicine after 20 years as an Emergency physician. She has served as President of the Medical Staff at Cooley Dickinson Hospital as well as the Chief & Medical Director of that hospitals Emergency Department.

She immigrated to the US from Jamaica with her family as a toddler and was in elementary school when she decided to pursue medicine, despite the absence of modeling or mentorship. She is also the mother of two incredible daughters, a devoted daily NY Times crossword solver and egg collector for three pandemic backyard chickens.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I was still in elementary school when I announced to my family that I was going to be a doctor. In retrospect that’s a pretty ballsy statement coming from a seven year old Jamaican immigrant whose parents spent their childhoods without indoor plumbing. Tunnel vision kept me on the path and at the age of 25 and a full 18 years after that fateful proclamation, I finally saw living proof that my dream was possible. For the first time in my memory, I laid eyes on a Black female physician - it was my final year of medical school.

After nearly twenty years as an Emergency physician and despite a love of patient care, I found myself struggling in silence with a deep and unshakeable need to transition away from life in the Emergency Department. The complications of divorce, coparenting, family illness and a few too many heartbreaking patients led me to nearly walk away from clinical medicine altogether despite finding success as a chief and medical director. The decision was complicated for many reasons. One especially difficult challenge was that as one of only full time Black doctors in my hospital, I knew leaving would nearly eliminate the possibility that anyone could see a Black physician there. I worried about what would happen to the Black and BIPOC patients I’d seen who visibly relaxed and felt more comfortable with their care because I was there.

I delayed my departure once again when COVID hit, but eventually, I had had enough. I channeled my passion into writing and speaking about health equity, which suffers because of the lack of diversity among medical professionals. I leaned into compelling, and at times, uncomfortable storytelling calling out the hurdles faced by physicians who reflect the most vulnerable patients they serve.

I realized that staying in the ER forever wasn’t the answer to the root cause of the problem that was keeping me there. I needed to replace myself. In order to do that, I want every young Black woman with the drive and interest to be a physician to be able to see herself in medicine. Faces of Medicine will reach into homes and spaces where someone has the spark and perhaps secret wish to become a doctor and tell her that she can. The pursuit of this project has also helped me find a new way back to the bedside to continue the lifelong journey of healing work that began with my dream as a seven year old child.