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Open Access Publications from the University of California

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?: A Case Study of Chronic Illness


Cinemeducation refers to the use of movies or movie clips to educate learners about the psychosocial aspects of health care. This paper describes the use of a clip from the movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? to teach medical students about chronic illness. The clip is used to set up a case study based on the lead character, Gilbert Grape. For the sake of the seminar, Gilbert is given a diagnosis of low back pain. After watching the clip, learners are asked to construct a genogram and family circle of the home context and then hypothesize about the possible causes of Gilbert's back pain. The educators then use the “case” as a basis for an exemplary patient-based chronic illness presentation. This presentation is designed to serve as a model for the students, who are asked to interview a patient and family and make their own patient-based chronic illness presentation at the end of their clerkship month. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cinemeducation is an effective and entertaining way of presenting didactic material, including teaching assessment and case management skills, to health care professionals. Suggestions are made for possible future research in this innovative teaching technique.

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