MONTREAL – Filmmaker Ezra Soiferman spent a year at the Goldman Herzl Family Practice Centre, one of Canada’s first free medical clinics, to produce the documentary Dockside to Bedside: 100 Years of Herzl.
The film, released in 2013 as part of the celebration of the clinic’s 100th anniversary, is now available on YouTube, in both its English and its French versions.
Now part of the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), the multidisciplinary centre’s patients and staff today are a microcosm of the city’s cultural diversity.
Over its 43 minutes, Dockside to Bedside traces Herzl’s evolution from a dockside dispensary serving newly arrived Jewish immigrants and other poor people, into a recognized leader in preventive medicine and compassionate care under the guidance of its longtime director, Dr. Michael Malus, the JGH’s chief of family medicine.
“Ezra got it,” Malus said of the film. “Our definition of health is more than the absence of disease. It is about enabling people to be who they really are. Our staff partners, with our patients, make it work. It is infectious.”
Soiferman said that “working closely with Dr. Malus and his team as they cared for Montrealers and Quebecers of all ages and ethnicities was a really eye-opening experience. “This is a film I’m eager to share with viewers looking to learn about the roots of preventive medicine in Canada. Compassionate medicine, too.”
Soiferman has directed an eclectic range of documentaries over his career, on topics as diverse as pickle-makers, greasy spoon chefs and Quebec Christmas tree sellers in New York, but “nothing could have prepared me for a film about a busy medical clinic and all it entails.”
The film, produced by Christos Sourligas and Alexandra Yanofsky, premiered on CityTV in English, narrated by former CBC anchor Dennis Trudeau, and on Air Canada flights in French, narrated by celebrated director Denys Arcand.
“I am delighted that the Herzl documentary can now be seen online, since it will inform a wider audience of the centre’s enormous contribution to family medicine in Montreal,” said Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, president and CEO of West-Central Montreal Health, the agency that oversees the JGH.
“The Herzl dispensary, as it was known at the turn of the 20th century, was instrumental in introducing the approach of treating the whole patient rather than just the symptoms, and viewing the patient as an individual rather than as a mere case.
“These are values that we continue to champion today throughout our health-care network, as we strive to keep improving the quality of care and the user experience.” The Herzl is today located in a former Catholic convent on the grounds of the JGH, which seems fitting for its pluralistic mission.