Getting healthcare in rural areas can be really difficult. There aren’t enough doctors and smaller communities often struggle with poverty and transportation issues. The documentary “The Providers” explores the challenges – and the rewards – of serving these patients by focusing on three healthcare workers in northern New Mexico. It premiers April 8 at 9 p.m. on New Mexico PBS Channel 5 and airs again April 13 at 10 p.m
KUNM’s Megan Kamerick spoke with one of the directors and producers of the film, Anna Moot-Levin.
KUNM: You and your co-director Laura Green settled on northern New Mexico as a place to explore this crisis in rural health care. Why?
Moot-Levin: I had a personal connection to New Mexico through a friend and she referred me to a few people including Chris Ruge, who's a nurse practitioner in the film. And we were just so overwhelmed by the dedication of the practitioners that we met and ultimately decided to set our whole film in northern New Mexico because we just saw so many stories. We felt like it would be a really powerful microcosm for the bigger picture of the challenges, and also rewards, of practicing rural medicine.
KUNM: All of their stories are very moving. You follow Chris, the nurse practitioner you mentioned, as he goes into patients’ homes. Why did you want to focus on what Chris was doing?
Moot-Levin: He was really trying to reach the most underserved patients in an already underserved community, and so we felt that that was really important to show. And similar to how he says that he learned so much about a patient just by walking into their home, that we learned so much about his work following him on home visits.
KUNM: You capture some really tough and intimate conversations. How did you gain the trust of folks to let you sort of be there while that's happening?
Moot-Levin: So we spent about 120 days filming on location in northern New Mexico over two-and-a-half years and so we really built long-term, trusting relationships with everyone in the film. I think it's also really a testament to the relationships that the patients have with their providers and that made them really want to show the fact that these health care providers are making a difference in their lives.
KUNM: What do you want people from the rest of the country to take away from this film?
Moot-Levin: We really want this film to inspire the next generation of rural health care providers and in the film medical director Matt Probst starts a program in the local high schools to really grow your own provider in your community. We also really are working to bring the film to current medical practitioners and students in pre-professional programs to see the importance of incorporating substance use disorder treatment into primary care. And we ultimately really want to show in the film both the challenges of medicine in rural communities, but also the beauty and the hope that's in rural communities.
KUNM: Where did you find hope in making the film?
Moot-Levin: The youth that are really excited and inspired to pursue health care careers, as well as the current practitioners that we met and their dedication to working with patients in a nonjudgmental way. This has a transformative power.
KUNM: You have these incredibly beautiful shots of New Mexico. It's such a contrast with the pain that we see in these stories. Why did you want to do that?
Moot-Levin: We really wanted to show the complexity and the nuanced nature of the rural communities of northern New Mexico. We feel like the most beauty we really saw was in the people.