ST. LOUIS - A newly released documentary titled, "The Color of Medicine: The Story of Homer G. Phillips Hospital," highlights the untold history of a premier public hospital. A retired physician impresses his daughter with stories about his early career at the hospital. She thought they were stories worth sharing because they reflect the passion and challenges faced by African-Americans as medical professionals.
Rebecca Robinson Williams of Indianapolis, Indiana co-produced the documentary. Her grandfather, a physician named Earle Robinson Sr., discovered Homer Phillips Hospital while passing through St. Louis. It started with a conversation with workers at the train station, according to Robinson Williams.
“They said there was a new hospital opening and they needed doctors and they were training black doctors. So, my grandfather stayed and joined the hospital staff. What was great was my father came behind him and trained there as well,” Robinson Williams said.
Homer G. Phillips Hospital was the place where most African-American nurses, doctors, technicians and dentists did their clinical training. Many stayed and finished out their career at the iconic institution. Dr. Robinson remembers it as a special place. “He said that was probably the best times of his life. He had so many wonderful memories. He said it was a brotherhood, a sisterhood.” Says Robinson Williams.
The public hospital served African-American patients for 42 years. Co-directors Joyce Fitzpatrick and Brian Shackleford talked to staff and patients about the hospitals closing and the fight to force its reopening.
“When I first started researching the film, it was sort of like a mystery. Everything I uncovered, there were certain things I had no idea about Homer G. Phillips, the historic training, or the city’s push to close it” Fitzpatrick said.
“So many people opened up to us. We were after things that had been hidden. So there were so many people who would brush the dust off and say, 'Here you go, here's another photo,'" Shackleford said.
People living near the hospital also know its historic significance according to Julia Allen a volunteer with the organization, 4theville.
“If you go to every state, and you say, the Ville, or Homer G. Phillips, you`re going to make a connection with somebody,” Allen said.
“The Color of Medicine” was a four-year labor of love. An overflow crowd attended the premiere screening at the Missouri History Museum in early April.
“It`s overwhelming. As I was watching the film and I hear people in the background, whether they were laughing or someone was sniffling a little bit because they were tearing up, it made me realize this is powerful and needed to be told.”
The documentary will have a second screening on Saturday, April 28 at a Washington University. The film a production of FlatCat Productions in association with Tunnel Vizion Entertainment, Inc.