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Film Planned About DoD's Health Sciences University

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 7, 2004 – A feature documentary film about the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is in the works.

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Hollywood producer Terry Sanders, left, with co-producer Chris Wiser, tells an audience at the Unformed Services University of the Health Services recently about his plans to make a feature documentary film about the university. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The nation's only fully accredited federal school of medicine and graduate school of nursing, the university was created by Congress in the Health Professions Revitalization Act of 1972. With its motto, "Learning to Care for Those in Harm's Way," the university has a worldwide reputation as a center of excellence for military medical education and research.

While working with Friends of USU, Alvarez said she wondered why more people didn't know about the university's role in providing DoD with health professionals.

So when she looked for a way to spread word about the university's work, Alvarez contacted Hollywood producer Terry Sanders. Her husband, former prisoner of war Everett Alvarez, had been a main subject in Sanders' "Return With Honor," the story of American fighter pilots held as POWs in North Vietnam. A Navy fighter pilot, Alvarez was shot down Aug. 4, 1964 and was not released until 1973.

"I'd never heard of the university until Tammy Alvarez brought it to my attention," Sanders said. His early research on doing the film, he said, found "an extremely high-quality institution with dedicated and extraordinary young people," he said.

"They're drawn here in an atmosphere of great teaching and great learning. It's very important, not only to the military, but to civilians as well -- not only in protecting troops, but in developing all sorts of techniques to safeguard against weapons of mass destruction towards civilians as well."

Sanders said the film should bring the institution to the attention of millions of people who would never hear of it otherwise. "We feel this film will be interesting to everybody," he said. "You don't have to be interested in the military, or medicine even. It's just the human stories here."

He said he thought young people would be very interested in the film, which would also "should cut across all age groups."

He emphasized that the film isn't not about facts and figures. It's about the highly emotional subject of caring for patients, particularly those who are injured while in harm's way.

Sanders' associate, Chris Wiser, who has more than 30 films to her credit, said they became fascinated about the project "because the students are so outstanding, and their reasons for being doctors, particularly military doctors, are so compelling. They truly want to care for those in harm's way."

Plans call for the story line to start on the university's Bethesda campus and extend to other places in the country and overseas. Plans include visits to the Army's parachute school at Fort Benning, Ga., to the trauma center at Los Angeles County Hospital, to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the Army's Landstuhl (Germany) Regional Medical Center, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

Wiser said the university's students, faculty and alumni would tell "the story of what they do, how they learn, how they put themselves in harm's way. They may not want to admit it, but they do. Their commitment is wonderful from what we've seen so far."

The production is in the researching, writing and planning phase, Sanders noted. Next will come financing efforts, followed by production, distribution and release, which will be at least a year away.

Sander's production company, American Film Foundation, has more than 70 motion pictures to its credit. His film credits include "Return with Honor," "Maya Lin, A Strong Clear Vision," "Slow Fires," "Into the Future," "The New Indians" and "War Hunt."

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Uniformed Services University of the Health Services

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