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When Pfizer Met McDreamy: A Classic American Love Story Between Medicine and the Media

  • Author(s): Bodoh-Creed, Jessica Anne
  • Advisor(s): McMullin, Juliet
  • et al.
Abstract

This project undertakes an analysis of knowledge production among American medical media as shaped by neoliberalism, biomedicine, and the larger idea of the healthscape. Issues of accuracy and authenticity are traced through the various sites of medical knowledge to better understand who and what is creating and regulating the information contained within. I follow four lines of evidence to support one singular narrative about media using fictional medical television, pharmaceutical advertising, the Internet and health applications, and celebrity physicians to show how they all contribute to accessible and accessed medical knowledge in the "help your doctor help you" neoliberal philosophy. Together these knowledge production sites create an assemblage of `stocks of knowledge' that encourage personal responsibility, creating what is often called the `smart patient' or Patient 2.0. The methods for this project include polymorphic engagement and studying up, as well as the more traditional interviews, textual analyses, online and archival research and participant observation. Medical fictional television, shows like ER, House M.D., and Grey's Anatomy, have on staff writers and consultants who are also physicians and nurses. These medical professionals are tasked to maintain authenticity as much as possible on set. Direct-to-Consumer pharmaceutical advertising is a controversial process by which consumers often misunderstand the basic regulations governing pharmaceutical products and advertising claims and safety. The Internet and health information accessed on tablet, smart phones, and computers are entirely unregulated and have been proven to lead to a new trend called cyberchondria, hyperchondria online. Celebrity physicians like Dr. Oz, are performing medicine in very visual and compelling ways, attracting audiences and loyalty to their recommendations. The celebrity physician is not regulated or governed in any way, and often they spend their time speaking about medicine well outside their medical specialty. These four areas of medical media together show the broad implications for this growing healthscape of medical information. The structural assemblage of biomedical information, combined with the push for consumers to be active biological citizens, leads people into a world where often they are not questioning the accuracy or sourcing of the medical information they may then be enacting.

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