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Local physician's film looks at national healtch care crises

Due to the low pay and high expenses of medical practices, medical students - who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their education - are forced to seek adequate compensation by practicing medical specialties, which earn far more than primary care practices, McConnell said.

"The essential issue and crisis in this country is we cannot have a health. system unless we have doctors - the critically important care of primary care physicians, and these are people who look after you as a total individual and coordinate your care," he said.

Bill Moyers has offered praise for McConnell's film.

"Money-Driven Medicine is one of the strongest documentaries I have seen in years and could not be more timely," he said in a review.

McConnell's idea for the documentary grew out of his long-standing frustrations how health care in the U.S. was evolving, with corporations exerting ever more control.

He started out his career as a school physician, then launched his own private family practice in New Jersey which performed everything from providing sutures to delivering babies, he said.

Later, when the practice included more doctors and its focus changed, McConnell moved on to become chief of an emergency care center at Dover Hospital. But when two Dover hospitals merged, the corporations destroyed the practice, he said, and he retired in 1996.

But during his last year at the hospital, investigative reporter Doug Campbell of the Philadelphia Inquirer contacted him and wanted to write an article about McConnell and his work in organizing an ascent of Mt. Everest - contrasted with the challenges McConnell routinely faced in the hospital's emergency wing.

The writer authored a lengthy, prominent article, and he and McConnell later collaborated on writing a book - Malignant Decisions - a novel that describes problems in the health care system including its exorbitant cost, and how doctors are increasingly losing control to corporations over medical decision-making. McConnell sent a copy of the book to a friend, a former medical student, who had become a filmmaker. The connection led to McConnell networking with Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who ended up producing Money-Driven Medicine, based on a book written by Maggie Mahar - and McConnell's research and experience.

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