In 1987, filmmakers from NOVA, the acclaimed science series, began filming seven Harvard Medical School students with the idea of chronicling what it takes to be a doctor.
Among them was Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, now an anesthesiologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center. Tuesday night at 8, you can watch the first part of the two-part special and see Dr. Bennett-Guerrero's journey.
It wasn't an easy one. The special does a great job of showing the difficult work of being a doctor. Most of us get that medical school is hard, but seeing just how rigorous it is, is illuminating. Marriages fail and not everyone journey ends happily. (The present is explored in part 2, which airs April 14.)
We got Dr. Bennett-Guerrero on the phone and asked him about his experience:
Q: How did you get involved with 'Doctors' Diaries?"
A: They interviewed most of the students in my class. I'm not sure what the criteria was, but at that point I thought I was interested in being a surgeon, so maybe they wanted that footage.
Q: Why did you want to be involved?
A: I thought it would be neat. I thought it would be nice to be 80 years old and have this footage to show to my grandkids and maybe my great grand kids, if I'm blessed to live that long. I lost my grandfather at 3 and I never got a sense of who he was, I never heard his voice. I saw this as documenting my younger self.
Q: Are you happy with how it's gone?
A: It's been generally positive. It's not the case of them filming for a month 24 hours a day. But it can be stressful appearing before a camera.
Q: So it's not like people say, that you forget the camera is there?
A: Oh that's true. It's easy to forget the camera is there. I understand how people on those reality shows say some of the things they say.
Q: One of the segments I thought was so compelling was the part where we saw how exhausted you all were, the hard work it takes to become a doctor.
A: I think that's one of the strengths of the show. That and it also shows how rewarding it can be. It's an incredible privilege to take care of people when they are that vulnerable. When they are sick.
Q: You also saw the toll it can take on your personal life. Was it uncomfortable to see those parts of your life revealed?
A: It's always a little disconcerting to have your personal life on TV. But I feel like my experience cold have been anyone else's. Like with my divorce from my first wife. I went through what many people have gone through.
Q: At one point, you were interested in being a ob/gyn...
A: Well, it's very common to be very interested in different specialties as you rotate through them. I thought what it showed was how important fate is in terms of your career choice. If you have a mentor and you have a good experience, that's probably what you'll end up choosing.
Q: So, you're happy with your choice?
A: Ultimately, I'm very happy with the choice I made. But I think there are other things I could have been happy doing too.
Q: When you look at these diaries, did you learn something about your younger self? Did anything surprise you?
A: I don't think a lot of people like seeing themselves on TV. The way you were 20 years ago, naive, insecure. I still remember that part of me.
Q: Well, this is the final one.
A: That's what they said after the fourth show. Now this is the fifth. Who knows, in 10 years they might want to revisit it.
Q: Would you be on board?