In an emergency room walled in on three sides, a group of physicians hovers over a body. David Hall, M.D., a fifth-year UF College of Medicine general surgery resident, performs chest compressions, vigorously attempting to circulate blood throughout the patient’s body. He pumps and pumps until a nearby voice yells, “Cut!”
This summer, Hall served as the medical consultant for the popular ABC drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” and his duties included working on and off camera. In addition to acting as an emergency physician in the 14th season premiere that aired Sept. 28, Hall worked in the writers’ room to ensure medical and surgical procedures were realistically presented.
“My goal is to ensure that shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ accurately portray surgery to the broader audience and to use the show as a way to disseminate medical knowledge to millions of viewers,” Hall said.
Hall had never seen an episode of “Grey’s” before starting this role. He was alerted to the medical consultant position by former UF general surgery residency program coordinator Michele Silver, who sent him the application with a note attached: “You’d be perfect for this.” The ‘’Grey’s Anatomy’’ medical communications fellowship for surgical residents is offered each season, and residents work at Prospect Studios in Los Feliz, Los Angeles 24 to 40 hours a week for three to six months.
It all begins with a script. Hall, 30, from Fort Lauderdale, used his own experiences as a surgical resident and what he learned as a medical student at the UF College of Medicine to come up with scenarios that remain fresh within the drama’s nearly 300-episode history.
“It’s almost like being a doctor in reverse,” he said. “I’ll be given an end result, like a patient with a liver surgery dies. Then I have to help generate the presentation, symptoms and diagnostic and therapeutic steps that would lead up to that point. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been able to do before.”
After a script is written, Hall visits the set to assist the cast and crew in performing surgical scenes. Though Hall had no background in TV or acting, he’s had a lifelong interest in writing.
“Even on my first day, I was treated as an integral part of the creative team, and I work directly with the producers and writers every day to develop the stories and guide the medical scenarios,” he said.
Hall is now back in Gainesville completing his general surgery residency and looking forward to a career in academia. He credits his education at the UF College of Medicine with providing him with the tools he needed (and affording him a personal leave of absence from the residency program) to become a medical consultant on the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning television series.
“For some of the nonsurgical, rare diseases and conditions the writers included in this season, I found myself thinking back to second-year medical school lectures on pathology and infectious diseases,’’ he said. “Naturally, when it came time for me to develop surgical scenarios, I found myself inspired by the patients I’ve taken care of as a medical student and resident.’’