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Pitt professor helps Hollywood get public health representation right in medical dramas

Pitt professor helps medical dramas get public health representation right
Pitt professor helps medical dramas get public health representation right 02:31

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Have you ever watched a TV show like "ER" where there is a lot of medical knowledge needed to portray the stories properly? It turns out there's actually a local professor who helps Hollywood get public health representation right.

"I love teaching and I love being in my classrooms but there are 20 to 30 students and if 4 million people see a TV episode about a public health topic, that's a way to reach literally millions of people," Beth Hoffman said. 

As an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Beth Hoffman teaches a class called Entertainment and Media Health where she shares the importance of combating misinformation of public health in media. 

"I really think Pitt Public Health is at the forefront of reimagining health communication, health education and creating this next generation of public health leaders," Hoffman said. 

In 2015, Hoffman helped on the set of "Code Black" and advised them how to answer special medical questions. 

"I got to talk with some of the actors and hear how people would message them through social media asking them medical questions," Hoffman said.

USC and the Hollywood, Health & Society reach out to Pitt regularly to ask Hoffman questions and obtain research from her studies to make sure they accurately cover certain issues on camera. 

"We did a study in partnership with Hollywood, Health and Society where we looked at the impact of the 'This is Us' Alzheimer's disease storyline and found that it was motivating people to have discussions with family members about their advanced care planning," Hoffman said. 

Hoffman has inspired some of her students to follow in her footsteps.

"I learned so much," said Britney Manu. "I've known her since  I thinkmy junior year, she actually influenced me to have public health as my major." 

"If you bring a health topic up, Beth already knows about five different episodes that have brought that up," said PhD/MPH assistant professor Jaime Sidani. 

Hoffman hopes her students can help people find correct information on any given health topic, "empowering them with the skills to digest the media that they consume is so much more important," she said.  

Hoffman and the University of Pittsburgh hope to continue their battle tackling misinformation in the media.

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