Writer: Paul ANGELL
Producer(s): Victor BUHLER (FLYING V PRODUCTIONS,Ltd), Ilene Kahn POWER (KAHN POWER PICTURES)
‘This is gonna be very tricky’, warns daring British philanthropist Stan Brock as he lowers the C-47 down to 600 feet above sea level. He needs to be at 300 feet to drop the supplies, and that’s very low for a bird that once flew in The Normandy Invasions. Here in a sweltering jungle valley in the foothills of Haiti, he is risking life and limb to do as his mandate has stated for the last 25 years: deliver care to the remote areas of the planet that need it most.
Brock is a man who has taken the notion of philanthropy to its logical conclusion; no house, no salary, no bank account, no possessions. His charity’s office in Tennessee is the place he calls ‘home’. He sleeps on the floor, takes cold showers, works 365 days a year, and lives on rice, beans and fruit. It is as though his life has been stripped-down so that nothing distracts him from his work.
In 1986, he set-up Remote Area Medical (RAM) and started flying relief missions to the Amazon. In the last 25 years his work has taken him pretty much everywhere, setting-up emergency medical clinics wherever the needs are greatest.
But these days that’s not only the Amazon. This charity, founded to help people who can’t reach medical care, now finds itself throwing America a lifeline.
“It’s very sad that the state of affairs requires us to provide this kind of care in the world’s richest country.”
He never imagined he’d be distributing basic medical care to US citizens in the remote rural areas of states like Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. This is the heart of the Bible Belt and his patients are America’s working poor; with families but without insurance. During each expedition, RAM spend 4 days setting-up and running a mobile treatment centre for thousands who have slipped through the cracks of an increasingly porous US healthcare system. RAM have treated 200,000 people in the last three years.
Now 75 years old, Stan Brock leads these missions with the same vim and vigour he had on the inaugural expedition to Guyana in 1986. He is everywhere: asking questions, checking procedures, delegating tasks, moving with purpose. A highly-focused individual then, but not a man without pre-occupations.
In striving to realize his goal of healthcare for all, Stan still faces two key challenges: interstate restrictions on medical practitioners and the securing of big corporate sponsors.
“We operate entirely on the generosity of the American people. I’d like to say that we had big corporate support in America but we don’t. So it’s the little checks from those people who send in the $5 and $10.”
So why the passion for healthcare? Aged 17, Stan Brock fled his stuffy English public school to live and work on the savannah of Guyana as a cowboy on the largest cattle ranch in the world. Growing-up amongst the Wapishana and other Amerindian tribes on the edge of the Amazonian rainforest, he lived with the pain and suffering created by isolation from medical care. He witnessed the near devastation of whole tribes by what would have been minor illnesses to others. After a particularly nasty illness befell him in 1963, he vowed to bring proper medical facilities to this remote area of the planet.
But before he could do so, fate intervened and Stan was spotted by US wildlife TV producer Marlin Perkins, who whisked him away to co-star in the world’s first wildlife TV show, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Fame and stardom ensued, with Stan making a name for himself as the man who could wrestle giant anacondas in Amazonian watering holes and fight baying tigers on the African plains. But fame was not what Stan was looking for. He was searching for something more valuable, more meaningful in life. In 1985, he experienced something of an epiphany, and decided to put what he describes as his ‘frivolous years’ behind him.
Through Stan Brock’s character, Medicine Man explores the US healthcare crisis from a personal rather than political perspective, focusing on the emotional human stories that emerge from Stan Brock’s quest for state deregulation, corporate sponsorship and nationwide expansion. The film is a bittersweet tale of a man who has given up everything he ever owned to help people ‘wherever the need is greatest’. But what will his legacy be? How much longer can he keep his mission flying? This is an inspiring and challenging story about an unlikely man on an unwavering and improbable mission, to confront the biggest social issue of our time.